SPOILS OF POYNTON
THE SPOILS OF
By the Same Author, 6s, each.
Pall Mall Gazette." These four stories are so
clever, that one can only raise one's hands in
The Times." Mr. James's stories are a con-
tinued protest against superficial workmanship
and slovenly style. He is an enthusiast who has
devoted himself to keeping alive the sacred fire
of genuine literature ; and he has his reward in
a circle of constant admirers, whose sympathy
encourages him to persevere."
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN.
FOILS OF POYNTON
By HENRY JAMES
" TERMINATIONS," " EMBARRASSMENTS "
ONDON : WILLIAM- HEINEMANN
All rights reserved.
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
MRS. GERETH had said she would go with the
rest to church, but suddenly it seemed to her that
she should not be able to wait even till church-
time for relief: breakfast, at Waterbath, was a
punctual meal, and she had still nearly an hour on
her hands. Knowing the church to be near, she
prepared in her room for the little rural walk,
and on her way down again, passing through corri-
dors and observing imbecilities of decoration, the
aesthetic misery of the big commodious house, she
felt a return of the tide of last night's irritation,
a renewal of everything she could secretly suffer
from ugliness and stupidity. Why did she consent
to such contacts? why did she so rashly expose
herself? She had had, heaven knew, her reasons,
but the whole experience was to be sharper than
she had feared. To get away from it and out into
the air, into the presence of sky and trees, flowers
and birds, was a necessity of every nerve. The
flowers at Waterbath would probably go wrong in
2 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
colour and the nightingales sing out of tune ; but
she remembered to have heard the place described
as possessing those advantages that are usually
spoken of as natural. There were advantages
enough it clearly didn't possess. It was hard for
her to believe that a woman could look presentable
who had been kept awake for hours by the wall-
paper in her room; yet none the less, as in her
fresh widow's weeds she rustled across the hall, she
was sustained by the consciousness, which always
added to the unction of her social Sundays, that
she was, as usual, the only person in the house
incapable of wearing in her preparation the horrible
stamp of the same exceptional smartness that
would be conspicuous in a grocer's wife. She
would rather have perished than have looked
She was fortunately not challenged, the hall
being empty of the other women, who were
engaged precisely in arraying themselves to that
dire end. Once in the grounds, she recognised
that, with a site, a view that struck the note, set an
example to its inmates, Waterbath ought to have
been charming. How she herself, with such ele-
ments to handle, would have taken the fine hint of
nature! Suddenly, at the turn of a walk, she
came on a member of the party, a young lady
seated on a bench in deep and lonely meditation.
She had observed the girl at dinner and after-
wards : she was always looking at girls with an
apprehensive or speculative reference to her son.
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 3
Deep in her heart was a conviction that Owen
would, in spite of all her spells, marry at last a
frump ; and this from no evidence that she could
have represented as adequate, but simply from her
deep uneasiness, her belief that such a special
sensibility as her own could have been inflicted on
a woman only as a source of anguish. It would
be her fate, her discipline, her cross, to have a
frump brought hideously home to her. This girl,
one of the two Vetches, had no beauty, but Mrs.
Gereth, scanning the dulness for a sign of life, had
been straightway able to classify such a figure as
the least, for the moment, of her afflictions. Fleda
Vetch was dressed with an idea, though perhaps
not with much else ; and that made a bond when
there was none other, especially as in this case the
idea was real, not imitation. Mrs. Gereth had long
ago generalised the truth that the temperament of
the frump is amply consistent with a certain usual
prettiness. There were five girls in the party, and
the prettiness of this one, slim, pale and black-
haired, was less likely than that of the others
ever to occasion an exchange of platitudes. The
two less developed Brigstocks, daughters of the
house, were in particular tiresomely " lovely." A
second glance, a sharp one, at the young lady
before her conveyed to Mrs. Gereth the soothing
assurance that she also was guiltless of looking
hot and fine. They had had no talk as yet, but
here was a note that would effectually introduce
them if the girl should show herself in the least
4 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
conscious of their community. She got up from
her seat with a smile that but partly dissipated the
prostration Mrs. Gereth had recognised in her atti-
tude. The elder woman drew her down again, and
for a minute, as they sat together, their eyes met
and sent out mutual soundings. "Are you safe?
Can I utter it ? " each of them said to the other,
quickly recognising, almost proclaiming, their
common need to escape. The tremendous fancy,
as it came to be called, that Mrs. Gereth was
destined to take to Fleda Vetch virtually began
with this discovery that the poor child had been
moved to flight even more promptly than herself.
That the poor child no less quickly perceived how
far she could now go was proved by the immense
friendliness with which she instantly broke out :
" Isn't it too dreadful ? "
" Horrible horrible ! " cried Mrs. Gereth with a
laugh ; " and it's really a comfort to be able to say
it." She had an idea, for it was her ambition, that
she successfully made a secret of that awkward
oddity her proneness to be rendered unhappy by
the presence of the dreadful. Her passion for the
exquisite was the cause of this, but it was a passion
she considered that she never advertised nor gloried
in, contenting herself with letting it regulate her
steps and show quietly in her life, remembering at
all times that there are few things more soundless
than a deep devotion. She was therefore struck
with the acuteness of the little girl who had already
put a finger on her hidden spring. What was
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 5
dreadful now, what was horrible, was the intimate
ugliness ofWaterbath, and it was of that phenome-
non these ladies talked while they sat in the shade
and drew refreshment from the great tranquil sky,
from which no blue saucers were suspended. It
, was an ugliness fundamental and systematic, the
result of the abnormal nature of the Brigstocks,
from whose composition the principle of taste had
been extravagantly omitted. In the arrangement
of their home some other principle, remarkably
active, but uncanny and obscure, had operated
instead, with consequences depressing to behold,
consequences that took the form of a universal
futility. The house was bad in all conscience,
but it might have passed if they had only let it
alone. This saving mercy was beyond them ;
they had smothered it with trumpery ornament
and scrapbook art, with strange excrescences and
bunchy draperies, with gimcracks that might have
been keepsakes for maid-servants and nondescript
conveniences that might have been prizes for the
blind. They had gone wildly astray over carpets
and curtains ; they had an infallible instinct for
disaster, and were so cruelly doom-ridden that it
rendered them almost tragic. Their drawing-room,
Mrs. Gereth lowered her voice to mention, caused
her face to burn, and each of the new friends con-
fided to the other that in her own apartment she
had given way to tears. There was in the elder
lady's a set of comic water-colours, a family joke
by a family genius, and in the younger's a souvenir
6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
from some centennial or other Exhibition, that
they shudderingly alluded to. The house was
perversely full of souvenirs of places even more
ugly than itself and of things it would have been a
pious duty to forget. The worst horror was the
acres of varnish, something advertised and smelly,
with which everything was smeared : it was Fleda
Vetch's conviction that the application of it, by
their own hands and hilariously shoving each other,
was the amusement of the Brigstocks on rainy
When, as criticism deepened, Fleda dropped the
suggestion that some people would perhaps see
something in Mona, Mrs. Gereth caught her up
with a groan of protest, a smothered familiar cry
of " Oh, my dear ! " Mona was the eldest of the
three, the one Mrs. Gereth most suspected. She
confided to her young friend that it was her sus-
picion that had brought her to Waterbath ; and
this was going very far, for on the spot, as a refuge,
a remedy, she had clutched at the idea that some-
thing might be done with the girl before her. It
was her fancied exposure at any rate that had
sharpened the shock ; made her ask herself with
a terrible chill if fate could really be plotting to
saddle her with a daughter-in-law brought up in
such a place. She had seen Mona in her ap-
propriate setting and she had seen Owen, hand-
some and heavy, dangle beside her ; but the effect
of these first hours had happily not been to darken
the prospect. It was clearer to her that she could
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 7
never accept Mona, but it was after all by no
means certain that Owen would ask her to. He
had sat by somebody else at dinner, and afterwards
he had talked to Mrs. Firmin, who was as dreadful
as all the rest, but redeemingly married. His
heaviness, which in her need of expansion she
freely named, had two aspects : one of them his
monstrous lack of taste, the other his exaggerated
prudence. If it should come to a question of
carrying Mona with a high hand there would be
no need to worry, for that was rarely his manner
Invited by her companion, who had asked if it
weren't wonderful, Mrs. Gereth had begun to say a
word about Poynton ; but she heard a sound of
voices that made her stop short. The next moment
she rose to her feet, and Fled a could see that her
alarm was by no means quenched. Behind the
place where they had been sitting the ground
dropped with a certain steepness, forming a long
grassy bank, up which Owen Gereth and Mona
Brigstock, dressed for church but making a familiar
joke of it, were in the act of scrambling and helping
each other. When they had reached the even
ground Fleda was able to read the meaning of the
exclamation in which Mrs. Gereth had expressed
her reserves on the subject of Miss Brigstock's
personality. Miss Brigstock had been laughing
and even romping, but the circumstance hadn't
contributed the ghost of an expression to her
countenance. Tall, straight and fair, long-limbed
8 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
and strangely festooned, she stood there without
a look in her eye or any perceptible intention of
any sort in any other feature. She belonged to
the type in which speech is an unaided emission of
sound and the secret of being is impenetrably and
incorruptibly kept. Her expression would pro-
bably have been beautiful if she had had one, but
whatever she communicated she communicated, in
a manner best known to herself, without signs.
This was not the case with Owen Gereth, who had
plenty of them, and all very simple and immediate.
Robust and artless, eminently natural yet perfectly
correct, he looked pointlessly active and pleasantly
dull. Like his mother and like Fleda Vetch, but
not for the same reason, this young pair had come
out to take a turn before church.
The meeting of the two couples was sensibly
awkward, and Fleda, who was sagacious, took the
measure of the shock inflicted . on Mrs. Gereth.
There had been intimacy oh yes, intimacy as
well as puerility in the horse-play of which they
had just had a glimpse. The party began to stroll
together to the house, and Fleda had again a sense
of Mrs. Gereth's quick management in the way the
lovers, or whatever they were, found themselves
separated. She strolled behind with Mona, the
mother possessing herself of her son, her exchange
of remarks with whom, however, remained, as they
went, suggestively inaudible. That member of the
party in whose intenser consciousness we shall
most profitably seek a reflection of the little drama
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 9
with which we are concerned received an even
livelier impression of Mrs. Gereth's intervention
from the fact that ten minutes later, on the way to
church, still another pairing had been effected.
Owen walked with Fleda, and it was an amuse-
ment to the girl to feel sure that this was by his
mother's direction. Fleda had other amusements
as well : such as noting that Mrs. Gereth was now
with Mona Brigstock ; such as observing that she
was all affability to that young woman ; such as
reflecting that, masterful and clever, with a great
bright spirit, she was one of those who impose
themselves as an influence ; such as feeling finally
that Owen Gereth was absolutely beautiful and
delightfully dense. This young person had even
from herself wonderful secrets of delicacy and
pride ; but she came as near distinctness as in the
consideration of such matters she had ever come at
all in now surrendering herself to the idea that it
was of a pleasant effect and rather remarkable to
be stupid without offence of a pleasanter effect
and more remarkable indeed than to be clever and
horrid. Owen Gereth, at any rate, with his inches,
his features and his lapses, was neither of these
latter things. She herself was prepared, if she
should ever marry, to contribute all the cleverness,
and she liked to think that her husband would be
a force grateful for direction. She was in her
small way a spirit of the same family as Mrs.
Gereth. On that flushed and huddled Sunday a
great matter occurred ; her little life became aware
io THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
of a singular quickening. Her meagre past fell
away from her like a garment of the wrong fashion,
and as she came up to town on the Monday what
she stared at from the train in the suburban fields
was a future full of the things she particularly
THESE were neither more nor less than the
things with which she had had time to learn from
Mrs. Gereth that Poynton overflowed. Poynton,
in the south of England, was this lady's estab-
lished, or rather her disestablished, home : it had
recently passed into the possession of her son.
The father of the boy, an only child, had died
two years before, and in London, with his mother,
Owen was occupying for May and June a house
good-naturedly lent them by Colonel Gereth, their
uncle and brother-in-law. His mother had laid
her hand so engagingly on Fleda Vetch that in a
very few days the girl knew it was possible they
should suffer together in Cadogan Place almost as
much as they had suffered together at Waterbath.
The kind soldier's house was also an ordeal, but
the two women, for the ensuing month, had at
least the relief of their confessions. The great
drawback of Mrs. Gereth's situation was that,
thanks to the rare perfection of Poynton, she was
condemned to wince wherever she turned. She
had lived for a quarter of a century in such warm
12 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
closeness with the beautiful that, as she frankly
admitted, life had become for her a kind of fool's
paradise. She couldn't leave her own house with-
out peril of exposure. She didn't say it in so
many words, but Fleda could see she held that
there was nothing in England really to compare to
Toynton. There were places much grander and
richer, but there was no such complete work of art,
nothing that would appeal so to those who were
really informed. In putting such elements into
her hand destiny had given her an inestimable
chance ; she knew how rarely well things had gone
with her and that she had enjoyed an extraordinary
There had been in the first place the exquisite
old house itself, early Jacobean, supreme in every
part : it was a provocation, an inspiration, a match-
less canvas for the picture. Then there had been
her husband's sympathy and generosity, his know-
ledge and love, their perfect accord and beautiful
life together, twenty-six years of planning and
seeking, a long, sunny harvest of taste and
curiosity. Lastly, she never denied, there had been
her personal gift, the genius, the passion, the
patience of the collector a patience, an almost
infernal cunning, that had enabled her to do it
all with a limited command of money. There
wouldn't have been money enough for any one
else, she said with pride, but there had been money
enough for her. They had saved on lots of things
in life, and there were lots of things they hadn't
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 13
had, but they had had in every corner of Europe
their swing among the Jews. It was fascinating to
poor Fleda, who hadn't a penny in the world nor
anything nice at home, and whose only treasure
was her subtle mind, to hear this genuine English
lady, fresh and fair, young in the fifties, declare
with gaiety and conviction that she was herself
the greatest Jew who had ever tracked a victim.
Fleda, with her mother dead, hadn't so much even
as a home, and her nearest chance of one was
that there was some appearance her sister would
become engaged to a curate whose eldest brother
was supposed to have property and would perhaps
allow him something. Her father paid some of
her bills, but he didn't like her to live with him ;
and she had lately, in Paris, with several hundred
other young women, spent a year in a studio,
arming herself for the battle of life by a course
with an impressionist painter. She was deter-
mined to work, but her impressions, or somebody's
else, were as yet her only material. Mrs. Gereth
had told her she liked her because she had an
extraordinary flair; but under the circumstances
a flair was a questionable' boon : in the dry spaces
in which she had mainly moved she could have
borne a chronic catarrh. She was constantly sum-
moned to Cadogan Place and before the month
was out was kept to stay, to pay a visit of which
the end, it was agreed, should have nothing to do
with the beginning. . She had a sense, partly
exultant and partly alarmed, of having quickly
14 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
become necessary to her imperious friend, who
indeed gave a reason quite sufficient for it in
telling her there was nobody else who understood.
From Mrs. Gereth there was in these days an
immense deal to understand, though it might be
freely summed up in the circumstance that she was
wretched. She told Fleda that she couldn't com-
pletely know why till she should have seen the
things at Poynton. Fleda could perfectly grasp
this connection, which was exactly one of the
matters that, in their inner mystery, were a blank
to everybody else.
The girl had a promise that the wonderful house
should be shown her early in July, when Mrs.
Gereth would return to it as to her home ; but even
before this initiation she put her ringer on the spot
that in the poor lady's troubled soul ached hardest.
This was the misery that haunted her, the dread of
the inevitable surrender. What Fleda had to sit
up to was the confirmed appearance that Owen
Gereth would marry Mona Brigstock, marry her
in his mother's teeth, and that such an act would
have incalculable bearings. They were present to
Mrs. Gereth, her companion could see, with a
vividness that at moments almost ceased to be
that of sanity. She would have to give up Poyn-
ton, and give it up to a product of Waterbath
that was the wrong that rankled, the humiliation
at which Fleda would be able adequately to shud-
der only when she should know the place. She
did know Waterbath and she despised it she had
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 15
that qualification for sympathy. Her sympathy
was intelligent, for she read deep into the matter :
she stared, aghast, as it came home to her for the
first time, at the cruel English custom of the ex-
propriation of the lonely mother. Mr. Gereth had
apparently been a very amiable man, but Mr.
Gereth had left things in a way that made the girl
marvel. The house and its contents had been
treated as a single splendid object ; everything was
to go straight to his son, and his widow was to have
a maintenance and a cottage in another county.
No account whatever had been taken of her relation
to her treasures, of the passion with which she had
waited for them, worked for them, picked them
over, made them worthy of each other and the
house, watched them, loved them, lived with them.
He appeared to have assumed that she would settle
questions with her son, that he could depend upon
Owen's affection. And in truth, as poor Mrs.
Gereth inquired, how could he possibly have had a
prevision he who turned his eyes instinctively
from everything repulsive of anything so abnor-
mal as a Waterbath Brigstock ? He had been in
ugly houses enough, but had escaped that particu-
lar nightmare. Nothing so perverse could have
been expected to happen as that the heir to the
loveliest thing in England should be inspired to
hand it over to a girl so exceptionally tainted.
Mrs. Gereth spoke of poor Mona's taint as if to
mention it were almost a violation of decency, and
a person who had listened without enlightenment
i6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
would have wondered of what fault the girl had
been or had indeed not been guilty. But Owen
had from a boy never cared, had never had the
least pride or pleasure in his home.
" Well, then, if he doesn't care ! " Fleda ex-
claimed with some impetuosity ; stopping short,
however, before she completed her sentence.
Mrs. Gereth looked at her rather hard. " If he
doesn't care ? "
Fleda hesitated ; she had not quite had a definite
idea. " Well he'll give them up."
" Give what up ? "
" Why, those beautiful things."
"Give them up to whom?" Mrs. Gereth more
"To you, of course to enjoy, to keep for
" And leave his house as bare as your hand ?
There's nothing in it that isn't precious."
Fleda considered ; her friend had taken her up
with a smothered ferocity by which she was slightly
disconcerted. " I don't mean of course that he
should surrender everything ; but he might let
you pick out the things to which you're most
" I think he would if he were free," said Mrs.
" And do you mean, as it is, that she'll prevent
him ? " Mona Brigstock, between these ladies, was
now nothing but " she."
" By every means in her power."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 17
" But surely not because she understands and
appreciates them ? "
" No," Mrs. Gereth replied, " but because they
belong to the house and the house belongs to
Owen. If I should wish to take anything she
would simply say, with that motionless mask : ' It
goes with the house.' And day after day, in the
face of every argument, of every consideration of
generosity, she would repeat, without winking, in
that voice like the squeeze of a doll's stomach : c It
goes with the house it goes with the house.' In
that attitude they'll shut themselves up."
Fleda was struck, was even a little startled with
the way Mrs. Gereth had turned this over had
faced, if indeed only to recognise its futility, the
notion of a battle with her only son. These words
led her to make an inquiry which she had not
thought it discreet to make before : she brought
out the idea of the possibility, after all, of her
friend's continuing to live at Poynton. Would
they really wish to proceed to extremities ? Was
no good-humoured, graceful compromise to be
imagined or brought about? Couldn't the same
roof cover them ? Was it so very inconceivable
that a married son should, for the rest of her days,
share with so charming a mother the home she
had devoted more than a score of years to making
beautiful for him ? Mrs. Gereth hailed this ques-
tion with a wan, compassionate smile : she replied
that a common household, in such a case, was
exactly so inconceivable that Fleda had only to
i8 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
glance over the fair face of the English land to see
how few people had ever conceived it. It was
always thought a wonder, a " mistake," a piece of
overstrained sentiment ; and she confessed that she
was as little capable of a flight of that sort as
Owen himself. Even if they both had been capable
they would still have Mona's hatred to reckon
with. Fleda's breath was sometimes taken away
by the great bounds and elisions which, on Mrs.
Gereth's lips, the course of discussion could take.
This was the first she had heard of Mona's
hatred, though she certainly had not needed Mrs.
Gereth to tell her that in close quarters that young
lady would prove secretly mulish. Later Fleda
perceived indeed that perhaps almost any girl
would hate a person who should be so markedly
averse to having anything to do with her. Before
this, however, in conversation with her young
friend, Mrs. Gereth furnished a more vivid motive
for her despair by asking how she could possibly
be expected to sit there with the new proprietors
and accept or call it, for a day, endure the
horrors they would perpetrate in the house. Fleda
reasoned that they wouldn't after all smash things
nor burn them up; and Mrs. Gereth admitted
when pushed that she didn't quite suppose they
would. What she meant was that they would
neglect them, ignore them, leave them to clumsy
servants (there wasn't an object of them all but
should be handled with perfect love), and in many
cases probably wish to replace them by pieces
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 19
answerable to some vulgar modern notion of the
convenient. Above all she saw in advance with
dilated eyes the abominations they would inevit-
ably mix up with them the maddening relics of
Waterbath, the little brackets and pink vases, the
sweepings of bazaars, the family photographs and
illuminated texts, the " household art " and house-
hold piety of Mona's hideous home. Wasn't it
enough simply to contend that Mona would ap-
proach Poynton in the spirit of a Brigstock and
that in the spirit of a Brigstock she would deal
with her acquisition ? Did Fleda really see her,
Mrs. Gereth demanded, spending the remainder of
her days with such a creature's elbow in her eye ?
Fleda had to declare that she certainly didn't
and that Waterbath had been a warning it would
be frivolous to overlook. At the same time she
privately reflected that they were taking a great
deal for granted and that, inasmuch as to her
knowledge Owen Gereth had positively denied his
betrothal, the ground of their speculations was by
no means firm. It seemed to our young lady that
in a difficult position Owen conducted himself
with some natural art ; treating this domesticated
confidant of his mother's wrongs with a simple
civility that almost troubled her conscience, so
deeply she felt that she might have had for him the
air of siding with that lady against him. She
wondered if he would ever know how little really
she did this and that she was there, since Mrs.
Gereth had insisted, not to betray but essentially
20 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
to confirm and protect. The fact that his mother
disliked Mona Brigstock might have made him
dislike the object of her preference, and it was
detestable to Fleda to remember that she might
have appeared to him to offer herself as an exem-
plary contrast. It was clear enough, however, that
the happy youth had no more sense for a motive
than a deaf man for a tune ; a limitation by which,
after all, she could gain as well as lose. He came
and went very freely on the business with which
London abundantly furnished him, but he found
time more than once to say to her, " It's awfully
nice of you to look after poor Mummy." As well
as his quick speech, which shyness made obscure
it was usually as desperate as a " rush " at some
violent game his child's eyes in his man's face
put it to her that, you know, this really meant a
good deal for him and that he hoped she would
stay on. With a person in the house who, like
herself, was clever, poor Mummy was conveni-
ently occupied ; and Fleda found a beauty in the
candour and even in the modesty which apparently
kept him from suspecting that two such wiseheads
could possibly be occupied with Owen Gereth.
THEY went at last, the wiseheads, down to
Poynton, where the palpitating girl had the full
revelation. "Now do you know how I feel?"
Mrs. Gereth asked when in the wonderful hall,
three minutes after their arrival, her pretty associ-
ate dropped on a seat with a soft gasp and a roll
of dilated eyes. The answer came clearly enough,
and in the rapture of that first walk through the
house Fleda took a prodigious span. She perfectly
understood how Mrs. Gereth felt she had under-
stood but meagrely before ; and the two women
embraced with tears over the tightening of their
bond tears which on the younger one's part were
the natural and usual sign of her submission to
perfect beauty. It was not the first time she had
cried for the joy of admiration, but it was the first
time the mistress of Poynton, often as she had
shown her house, had been present at such an
exhibition. She exulted in it ; it quickened her
own tears ; she assured her companion that such
an occasion made the poor old place fresh to her
again and more precious than ever. Yes, nobody
22 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
had ever, that way, felt what she had achieved :
people were so grossly ignorant, and everybody,
even the knowing ones, as they thought themselves,
more or less dense. What Mrs. Gereth had achieved
was indeed an exquisite work ; and in such an art
of the treasure-hunter, in selection and comparison
refined to that point, there was an element of
creation, of personality. She had commended
Fleda's flair> and Fleda now gave herself up to
satiety. Preoccupations and scruples fell away
from her ; she had never known a greater happiness
than the week she passed in this initiation.
Wandering through clear chambers where the
general effect made preferences almost as impossible
as if they had been shocks, pausing at open doors
where vistas were long and bland, she would, even
if she had not already known, have discovered for
herself that Poynton was the record of a life. It
was written in great syllables of colour and form,
the tongues of other countries and the hands of
rare artists. It was all France and Italy, with
their ages composed to rest. For England you
looked out of old windows it was England that
was the wide embrace. While outside, on the low
terraces, she contradicted gardeners and refined on
nature, Mrs. Gereth left her guest to finger fondly
the brasses that Louis Quinze might have thumbed,
to sit with Venetian velvets just held in a loving
palm, to hang over cases of enamels and pass and
repass before cabinets. There were not many
pictures the panels and the stuffs were themselves
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 23
the picture ; and in all the great wainscoted house
there was not an inch of pasted paper. What
struck Fleda most in it was the high pride of her
friend's taste, a fine arrogance, a sense of style
which, however amused and amusing, never com-
promised nor stooped. She felt indeed, as this
lady had intimated to her that she would, both a
respect and a compassion that she had not known
before ; the vision of the coming surrender filled
her with an equal pain. To give it all up, to
die to it that thought ached in her breast. She
herself could imagine clinging there with a close-
ness separate from dignity. To have created such
a place was to have had dignity enough ; when
there was a question of defending it the fiercest
attitude was the right one. After so intense a
taking of possession she too was to give it up ; for
she reflected that if Mrs. Gereth's remaining there
would have offered her a sort of future stretching
away in safe years on the other side of a gulf the
advent of the others could only be, by the same law,
a great vague menace, the ruffling of a still water.
Such were the emotions of a hungry girl whose
sensibility was almost as great as her opportunities
for comparison had been small. The museums had
done something for her, but nature had done more.
If Owen had not come down with them nor
joined them later, it was because he still found
London jolly ; yet the question remained of
whether the jollity of London was not merely the
only name his small vocabulary yielded for the
24 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
jollity of Mona Brigstock. There was indeed in
his conduct another ambiguity something that
required explaining so long as his motive didn't
come to the surface. If he was in love what was
the matter ? And what was the matter still more
if he wasn't? The mystery was at last cleared
up : this Fleda gathered from the tone in which,
one morning at breakfast, a letter just opened
made Mrs. Gereth cry out. Her dismay was
almost a shriek : " Why, he's bringing her down
he wants her to see the house ! " They flew,
the two women, into each other's arms and, with
their heads together, soon made out that the
reason, the baffling reason why nothing had yet
happened, was that Mona didn't know, or Owen
didn't, whether Poynton would really please her.
She was coming down to judge ; and could any-
thing in the world be more like poor Owen than
the ponderous probity which had kept him from
pressing her for a reply till she should have
learned whether she approved what he had to
offer her? That was a scruple it had naturally
been impossible to impute. If only they might
fondly hope, Mrs. Gereth wailed, that the girl's
expectations would be dashed ! There was a fine
consistency, a sincerity quite affecting, in her
arguing that the better the place should happen
to look and to express the conceptions to which
it owed its origin, the less it would speak to an
intelligence so primitive. How could a Brigstock
possibly understand what it was all about ? How,
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 25
really, could a Brigstock logically do anything but
hate it ? Mrs. Gereth, even as she whisked away
linen shrouds, persuaded herself of the possibility
on Mona's part of some bewildered blankness,
some collapse of admiration that would prove dis-
concerting to her swain a hope of which Fleda
at least could see the absurdity and which gave
the measure of the poor lady's strange, almost
maniacal disposition to thrust in everywhere the
question of "things," to read all behaviour in the
light of some fancied relation to them. " Things "
were of course the sum of the world ; only, for
Mrs. Gereth, the sum of the world was rare
French furniture and oriental china. She could
at a stretch imagine people's not having, but she
couldn't imagine their not wanting and not missing.
The young couple were to be accompanied by
Mrs. Brigstock, and with a prevision of how fiercely
they would be watched Fleda became conscious,
before the party arrived, of an amused, diplomatic
pity for them. Almost as much as Mrs. Gereth's
her taste was her life, but her life was somehow
the larger for it. Besides, she had another care
now : there was some one she wouldn't have liked
to see humiliated even in the form of a young lady
who would contribute to his never suspecting so
much delicacy. When this young lady appeared
Fleda tried, so far as the wish to efface herself
allowed, to be mainly the person to take her about,
show her the house and cover up her ignorance.
Owen's announcement had been that, as trains
26 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
made it convenient, they would present themselves
for luncheon and depart before dinner ; but Mrs.
Gereth, true to her system of glaring civility,
proposed and obtained an extension, a dining and
spending of the night. She made her young
friend wonder against what rebellion of fact she
was sacrificing in advance so profusely to form.
Fleda was appalled after the first hour by the rash
innocence with which Mona had accepted the
responsibility of observation, and indeed by the
large levity with which, sitting there like a bored
tourist in fine scenery, she exercised it. She felt
in her nerves the effect of such a manner on her
companion's, and it was this that made her want
to entice the girl away, give her some merciful
warning or some jocular cue. Mona met intense
looks, however, with eyes that might have been
blue beads, the only ones she had eyes into
which Fleda thought it strange Owen Gereth
should have to plunge for his fate and his mother
for a confession of whether Poynton was a success.
She made no remark that helped to supply this
light ; her impression at any rate had nothing in
common with the feeling that, as the beauty of the
place throbbed out like music, had caused Fleda
Vetch to burst into tears. She was as content to
say nothing as if, Mrs. Gereth afterwards ex-
claimed, she had been keeping her mouth shut in
a railway-tunnel. Mrs. Gereth contrived at the
end of an hour to convey to Fleda that it was
plain she was brutally ignorant ; but Fleda more
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 27
finely discovered that her ignorance was obscurely
She was not so stupid as not to see that some-
thing, though she scarcely knew what, was ex-
pected of her that she couldn't give ; and the only
mode her intelligence suggested of meeting the
expectation was to plant her big feet and pull
another way. Mrs. Gereth wanted her to rise,
somehow or somewhere, and was prepared to hate
her if she didn't : very well, she couldn't, she
wouldn't rise ; she already moved at the altitude
that suited her, and was able to see that since she
was exposed to the hatred she might at least
enjoy the calm. The smallest trouble, for a girl
with no nonsense about her, was to earn what she
incurred ; so that, a dim instinct teaching her she
would earn it best by not being effusive, and com-
bining with the conviction that she now held Owen,
and therefore the place, she had the pleasure of
her honesty as well as of her security. Didn't
her very honesty lead her to be belligerently blank
about Poynton, inasmuch as it was just Poynton
that was forced upon her as a subject for effusive-
ness? Such subjects, to Mona Brigstock, had an
air almost of indecency, and the house became
uncanny to her through such an appeal an appeal
that, somewhere in the twilight of her being, as
Fleda was sure, she thanked heaven she was the
girl stiffly to draw back from. She was a person
whom pressure at a given point infallibly caused
to expand in the wrong place instead of, as it is
28 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
usually administered in the hope of doing, the
right one. Her mother, to make up for this, broke
out universally, pronounced everything "most
striking," and was visibly happy that Owen's captor
should be so far on the way to strike : but she
jarred upon Mrs. Gereth by her formula of admira-
tion, which was that anything she looked at was
"in the style" of something else. This was to
show how much she had seen, but it only showed
she had seen nothing ; everything at Poynton was
in the style of Poynton, and poor Mrs. Brigstock,
who at least was determined to rise and had
brought with her a trophy of her journey, a " lady's
magazine" purchased at the station, a horrible
thing with patterns for antimacassars, which, as it
was quite new, the first number, and seemed so
clever, she kindly offered to leave for the house,
was in the style of a vulgar old woman who wore
silver jewelry and tried to pass off a gross avidity
as a sense of the beautiful.
By the day's end it was clear to Fleda Vetch
that, however Mona judged, the day had been
determinant. Whether or no she felt the charm
she felt the challenge : at an early moment Owen
Gereth would be able to tell his mother the worst.
Nevertheless when the elder lady, at bedtime,
coming in a dressing-gown and a high fever to
the younger one's room, cried out, " She hates
it ; but what will she do ? " Fleda pretended
vagueness, played at obscurity and assented dis-
ingenuously to the proposition that they at least
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 29
had a respite. The future was dark to her, but there
was a silken thread she could clutch in the gloom
she would never give Owen away. He might
give himself he even certainly would ; but that
was his own affair, and his blunders, his innocence
only added to the appeal he made to her. She
would cover him, she would protect him, and
beyond thinking her a cheerful inmate he would
never guess her intention, any more than, beyond
thinking her clever enough for anything, his acute
mother would discover it. From this hour, with
Mrs. Gereth, there was a flaw in her frankness.
Her admirable friend continued to know everything
she did ; what was to remain unknown was the
From the window of her room, the next morn-
ing before breakfast, the girl saw Owen in the
garden with Mona, who strolled beside him with
a listening parasol but without a visible look for
the great florid picture that had been hung there
by Mrs. Gereth's hand. Mona kept dropping her
eyes, as she walked, to catch the sheen of her
patent-leather shoes, which resembled a man's and
which she kicked forward a little it gave her an
odd movement to help her see what she thought
of them. When Fleda came down Mrs. Gereth
was in the breakfast-room ; and at that moment
Owen, through a long window, passed in alone
from the terrace and very endearingly kissed his
mother. It immediately struck the girl that she
was in their way, for hadn't he been borne on a
30 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
wave of joy exactly to announce, before the Brig-
stocks departed, that Mona had at last faltered
out the sweet word he had been waiting for? He
shook hands with his friendly violence, but Fleda
contrived not to look into his face : what she liked
most to see in it was not the reflection of Mona's
big boot-toes. She could bear well enough that
young lady herself, but she couldn't bear Owen's
opinion of her. She was on -the point of slipping
into the garden when the movement was checked
by Mrs. Gereth's suddenly drawing her close, as
if for the morning embrace, and then, while she
kept her there with the bravery of the night's
repose, breaking out : " Well, my dear boy, what
does your young friend there make of our odds and
" Oh, she thinks they're all right ! "
Fleda immediately guessed from his tone that
he had not come in to say what she supposed ;
there was even something in it to confirm Mrs.
Gereth's belief that their danger had dropped.
She was sure, moreover, that his tribute to Mona's
taste was a repetition of the eloquent words in
which the girl had herself recorded it ; she could
indeed hear, with all vividness, the pretty passage
between the pair. "Don't you think it's rather
jolly, the old shop?" "Oh, it's all right!" Mona
had graciously remarked : and then they had
probably, with a slap on a back, run another race
up or down a green bank. Fleda knew Mrs.
Gereth had not yet uttered a word to her son that
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 31
would have shown him how much she feared ; but
it was impossible to feel her friend's arm round her
and not become aware that this friend was now
throbbing with a strange intention. Owen's reply
had scarcely been of a nature to usher in a dis-
cussion of Mona's sensibilities ; but Mrs. Gereth
went on, in a moment, with an innocence of which
Fleda could measure the cold hypocrisy : " Has
she any sort of feeling for nice old things ? " The
question was as fresh as the morning light.
" Oh, of course she likes everything that's nice."
And Owen, who constitutionally disliked questions
an answer was almost as hateful to him as a
" trick " to a big dog smiled kindly at Fleda and
conveyed that she would understand what he
meant even if his mother didn't. Fleda, however,
mainly understood that Mrs. Gereth, with an odd,
wild laugh, held her so hard that she hurt her.
" I could give up everything without a pang, I
think, to a person I could trust, I could respect."
The girl heard her voice tremble under the effort
to show nothing but what she wanted to show, and
felt the sincerity of her implication that the piety
most real to her was to be on one's knees before
one's high standard. "The best things here, as
you know, are the things your father and I col-
lected, things all that we worked for and waited
for and suffered for. Yes," cried Mrs. Gereth, with
a fine freedom of fancy, " there are things in the
house that we almost starved for ! They were our
religion, they were our life, they were us! And
32 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
now they're only me except that they're also you,
thank God, a little, you dear ! " she continued,
suddenly inflicting on Fleda a kiss apparently
intended to knock her into position. " There isn't
one of them I don't know and love yes, as one
remembers and cherishes the happiest moments of
one's life. Blindfold, in the dark, with the brush
of a finger, I could tell one from another. They're
living things to me ; they know me, they return
the touch of my hand. But I could let them
all go, since I have to, so strangely, to another
affection, another conscience. There's a care they
want, there's a sympathy that draws out their
beauty. Rather than make them over to a woman
ignorant and vulgar, I think I'd deface them with
my own hands. Can't you see me, Fleda, and
wouldn't you do it yourself?" she appealed to
her companion with glittering eyes. " I couldn't
bear the thought of such a woman here I couldn't.
I don't know what she'd do ; she'd be sure to
invent some devilry, if it should be only to bring
in her own little belongings and horrors. The
world is full of cheap gimcracks, in this awful age,
and they're thrust in at one at every turn. They'd
be thrust in here, on top of my treasures, my own.
Who would save them for me I ask you who
would?" and she turned again to Fleda with a
dry, strained smile. Her handsome, high-nosed,
excited face might have been that of Don Quixote
tilting at a windmill. Drawn into the eddy of
this outpouring, the girl, scared and embarrassed,
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 33
laughed off her exposure ; but only to feel herself
more passionately caught up and, as it seemed to
her, thrust down the fine open mouth (it showed
such perfect teeth) with which poor Owen's slow
cerebration gaped. " You would, of course only
you, in all the world, because you know, you feel,
as I do myself, what's good and true and pure."
No severity of the moral law could have taken a
higher tone in this implication of the young lady
who had not the only virtue Mrs. Gereth actively
esteemed. " You would replace me, you would
watch over them, you would keep the place right,"
she austerely pursued, "and with you here yes,
with you, I believe I might rest, at last, in my
grave ! " She threw herself on Fleda's neck, and
before Fleda, horribly shamed, could shake her
off, had burst into tears which couldn't have been
explained, but which might perhaps have been
A WEEK later Owen Gereth came down to in-
form his mother that he had settled with Mona
Brigstock ; but it was not at all a joy to Fleda,
aware of how much to himself it would be a sur-
prise, that he should find her still in the house.
That dreadful scene before breakfast had made
her position false and odious ; it had been followed,
after they were left alone, by a scene of her own
making with her extravagant friend. She notified
Mrs. Gereth of her instant departure : she couldn't
possibly remain after being offered to Owen that
way, before her very face, as his mother's candidate
for the honour of his hand. That was all he could
have seen in such an outbreak and in the indecency
of her standing there to enjoy it. Fleda had on
the prior occasion dashed out of the room by the
shortest course and in her confusion had fallen
upon Mona in the garden. She had taken an
aimless turn with her, and they had had some talk,
rendered at first difficult and almost disagreeable
by Mona's apparent suspicion that she had been
sent out to spy, as Mrs. Gereth had tried to spy,
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 35
into her opinions. Fleda was sagacious enough to
treat these opinions as a mystery almost awful ;
which had an effect so much more than reassuring
that at the end of five minutes the young lady
from Waterbath suddenly and perversely said :
" Why has she never had a winter garden thrown
out? If ever I have a place of my own I mean
to have one." Fleda, dismayed, could see the
thing something glazed and piped, on iron pillars,
with untidy plants and cane sofas ; a shiny excre-
scence on the noble face of Poynton. She remem-
bered at Waterbath a conservatory where she had
caught a bad cold in the company of a stuffed
cockatoo fastened to a tropical bough and a water-
less fountain composed of shells stuck into some
hardened paste. She asked Mona if her idea would
be to make something like this conservatory ; to
which Mona replied : " Oh no, much finer ; we
haven't got a winter garden at Waterbath." Fleda
wondered if she meant to convey that it was the
only grandeur they lacked, and in a moment Mona
went on : " But we have got a billiard-room that
I will say for us ! " There was no billiard-room at
Poynton, but there would evidently be one, and it
would have, hung on its walls, framed at the
"Stores," caricature-portraits of celebrities taken
from a " society paper."
When the two girls had gone in to breakfast it
was for Fleda to see at a glance that there had
been a further passage, of some high colour, between
Owen and his mother ; and she had turned pale in
36 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
guessing to what extremity, at her expense, Mrs.
Gereth had found occasion to proceed. Hadn't
she, after her clumsy flight, been pressed upon
Owen in still clearer terms? Mrs. Gereth would
practically have said to him : " If you'll take her,
I'll move away without a sound. But if you take
any one else, any one I'm not sure of as I am of
her heaven help me, I'll fight to the death!"
Breakfast, this morning, at Poynton, had been a
meal singularly silent, in spite of the vague little
cries with which Mrs. Brigstock turned up the
underside of plates and the knowing but alarming
raps administered by her big knuckles to porcelain
cups. Some one had to respond to her, and the
duty assigned itself to Fleda, who, while pretending
to meet her on the ground of explanation, wondered
what Owen thought of a girl still indelicately
anxious, after she had been grossly hurled at him,
to prove by exhibitions of her fine taste that she
was really what his mother pretended. This time,
at any rate, their fate was sealed : Owen, as soon
as he should get out of the house, would describe
to Mona that lady's extraordinary conduct, and if
anything more had been wanted to " fetch " Mona,
as he would call it, the deficiency was now made
up. Mrs. Gereth in fact took care of that took
care of it by the way, at the last, on the threshold,
she said to the younger of her departing guests,
with an irony of which the sting was wholly in the
sense, not at all in the sound : " We haven't had
the talk we might have had, have we ? You'll feel
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 37
that I've neglected you, and you'll treasure it up
against me. Don't, because really, you know, it
has been quite an accident, and I've all sorts of
information at your disposal. If you should come
down again (only you won't, ever I feel that !)
I should give you plenty of time to worry it out
of me. Indeed there are some things I should
quite insist on your learning ; not permit you at
all, in any settled way, not to learn. Yes indeed,
you'd put me through, and I should put you, my
dear ! We should have each other to reckon with,
and you would see me as I really am. I'm not a
bit the vague, mooning, easy creature I dare say
you think. However, if you won't come, you won't;
n'en parlous plus. It is stupid here after what
you're accustomed to. We can only, all round, do
what we can, eh? For heaven's sake, don't let
your mother forget her precious publication, the
female magazine, with the what-do-you-call-'em ?
the grease-catchers. There ! "
Mrs. Gereth, delivering herself from the doorstep,
had tossed the periodical higher in air than was
absolutely needful tossed it toward the carnage
the retreating party was about to enter. Mona,
from the force of habit, the reflex action of the
custom of sport, had popped out, with a little
spring, a long arm and intercepted the missile as
easily as she would have caused a tennis-ball to
rebound from a racket. " Good catch ! " Owen
had cried, so genuinely pleased that practically
no notice was taken of his mother's impressive
38 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
remarks. It was to the accompaniment of romp-
ing laughter, as Mrs. Gereth afterwards said, that
the carriage had rolled away ; but it was while that
laughter was still in the air that Fleda Vetch, white
and terrible, had turned upon her hostess with her
scorching " How could you? Great God, how could
you ? " This lady's perfect blankness was from the
first a sign of her serene conscience ; and the fact
that till indoctrinated she didn't even know what
Fleda meant by resenting her late offence to every
susceptibility, gave our young woman a sore, scared
perception that her own value in the house was
the mere value, as one might say, of a good agent.
Mrs. Gereth was generously sorry, but she was still
more surprised surprised at Fleda's not having
liked to be shown off to Owen as the right sort of
wife for him. Why not, in the name of wonder,
if she absolutely was the right sort? She had
admitted on explanation that she could see what
her young friend- meant by having been laid, as
Fleda called it, at his feet ; but it struck the girl
that the admission was only made to please her
and that Mrs. Gereth was secretly surprised at her
not being as happy to be sacrificed to the supre-
macy of a high standard as she was happy to
sacrifice her. She had taken a tremendous fancy
to her, but that was on account of the fancy to
Poynton of course Fleda herself had taken.
Wasn't this latter fancy then so great after all?
Fleda felt that she could declare it to be great
indeed when really for the sake of it she could
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 39
forgive what she had suffered and, after reproaches
and ears, asseverations and kisses, after learning
that she was cared for only as a priestess of the
altar and a view of her bruised dignity which left
no alternative to flight, could accept the shame
with the balm, consent not to depart, take refuge
in the thin comfort of at least knowing the truth.
The truth was simply that all Mrs. Gereth's scruples
were on one side and that her ruling passion had
in a manner despoiled her of her humanity. On
the second day, after the tide of emotion had some-
what ebbed, she said soothingly to her companion :
" But you would, after all, marry him, you know,
darling, wouldn't you, if that girl were not there?
I mean of course if he were to ask you," Mrs.
Gereth had thoughtfully added.
"Marry him if he were to ask me? Most
distinctly not ! "
The question had not come up with this definite-
ness before, and Mrs. Gereth was clearly more
surprised than ever. She marvelled a moment.
" Not even to have Poynton ? "
" Not even to have Poynton."
" But why on earth ? " Mrs. Gereth's sad eyes
were fixed on her.
Fleda coloured ; she hesitated. " Because he's
too stupid ! " Save on one other occasion, at
which we shall in time arrive, little as the reader
may believe it, she never came nearer to betraying
to Mrs. Gereth that she was in love with Owen.
She found a dim amusement in reflecting that if
40 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Mona had not been there and he had not been too
stupid and he verily had asked her, she might,
should she have wished to keep her secret, have
found it possible to pass off the motive of her
action as a mere passion for Poynton.
Mrs. Gereth evidently thought in these days of
little but things hymeneal ; for she broke out with
sudden rapture in the middle of the week : " I
know what they'll do : they will marry, but they'll
go and live at Waterbath ! " There was positive
joy in that form of the idea, which she embroidered
and developed : it seemed so much the safest thing
that could happen. " Yes, I'll have you, but I
won't go there!" Mona would have said with a
vicious nod at the southern horizon : " we'll leave
your horrid mother alone there for life." It would
be an ideal solution, this ingress the lively pair,
with their spiritual need of a warmer medium,
would playfully punch in the ribs of her ancestral
home ; for it would not only prevent recurring
panic at Poynton it would offer them, as in one
of their gimcrack baskets or other vessels of ugli-
ness, a definite daily felicity that Poynton could
never give. Owen might manage his estate just as
he managed it now, and Mrs. Gereth would manage
everything else. When in the hall, on the un-
forgettable day of his return, she had heard his
voice ring out like a call to a terrier, she had still,
as Fleda afterwards learned, clutched frantically at
the conceit that he had come, at the worst, to
announce some compromise ; to tell her she would
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 41
have to put up with the girl, yes, but that some
way would be arrived at of leaving her in personal
possession. Fleda Vetch, whom from the earliest
hour no illusion had brushed with its wing, now
held her breath, went on tiptoe, wandered in out-
lying parts of the house and through delicate,
muffled rooms while the mother and son faced
each other below. From time to time she stopped
to listen ; but all was so quiet she was almost
frightened : she had vaguely expected a sound of
contention. It lasted longer than she would have
supposed, whatever it was they were doing ; and
when finally, from a window, she saw Owen stroll
out of the house, stop and light a cigarette and
then pensively lose himself in the plantations, she
found other matter for trepidation in the fact that
Mrs. Gereth didn't immediately come rushing up
into her arms. She wondered whether she oughtn't
to go down to her, and measured the gravity of
what had occurred by the circumstance, which she
presently ascertained, that the poor lady had retired
to her room and wished not to be disturbed. This
admonition had been for her maid, with whom
Fleda conferred as at the door of a death-chamber ;
but the girl, without either fatuity or resentment,
judged that, since it could render Mrs. Gereth in-
different even to the ministrations of disinterested
attachment, the scene had been tremendous.
She was absent from luncheon, where indeed
Fleda had enough to do to look Owen in the face :
there would be so much to make that hateful in
42 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
their common memory of the passage in which
his last visit had terminated. This had been her
apprehension at least ; but as soon as he stood
there she was constrained to wonder at the prac-
tical simplicity of the ordeal a simplicity which
was really just his own simplicity, the particular
thing that, for Fleda Vetch, some other things of
course aiding, made almost any direct relation
with him pleasant. He had neither wit, nor tact,
nor inspiration: all she could say was that when
they were together the alienation these charms
were usually depended on to allay didn't occur.
On this occasion, for instance, he did so much
better than " carry off" an awkward remembrance :
he simply didn't have it. He had clean forgotten
that she was the girl his mother would have
fobbed off on him; he was conscious only that
she was there in a manner for service conscious
of the dumb instinct that from the first had made
him regard her not as complicating his inter-
course with that personage, but as simplifying
it. Fleda found beautiful that this theory should
have survived the incident of the other day ; found
exquisite that whereas she was conscious, through
faint reverberations, that for her kind little circle
at large, whom it didn't concern, her tendency had
begun to define itself as parasitical, this strong
young man, who had a right to judge and even
a reason to loathe her, didn't judge and didn't
loathe, let her down gently, treated her as if she
pleased him, and in fact evidently liked her to
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 43
be just where she was. She asked herself what
he did when Mona denounced her, and the only
answer to the question was that perhaps Mona
didn't denounce her. If Mona was inarticulate
he wasn't such a fool, then, to marry her. That
he was glad Fleda was there was at any rate
sufficiently shown by the domestic familiarity with
which he said to her: " I must tell you I've been
having an awful row with my mother. I'm engaged
to be married to Miss Brigstock."
" Ah, really ? " cried Fleda, achieving a radiance
of which she was secretly proud. " How very
exciting ! "
" Too exciting for poor Mummy. She won't
hear of it. She has been slating her fearfully.
She says she's a 'barbarian.'"
" Why, she's lovely ! " Fleda exclaimed.
" Oh, she's all right. Mother must come round."
" Only give her time," said Fleda. She had
advanced to the threshold of the door thus thrown
open to her and, without exactly crossing it, she
threw in an appreciative glance. She asked Owen
when his marriage would take place, and in the
light of his reply read that Mrs. Gereth's wretched
attitude would have no influence at all on the
event, absolutely fixed when he came down and
distant by only three months. He liked Fleda's
seeming to be on his side, though that was a
secondary matter ; for what really most concerned
him now was the line his mother took about Poyn-
ton, her declared unwillingness to give it up.
44 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" Naturally I want my own house, you know,"
he said, " and my father made every arrangement
for me to have it. But she may make it devilish
awkward. What in the world's a fellow to do?"
This it was that Owen wanted to know, and there
could be no better proof of his friendliness than
his air of depending on Fleda Vetch to tell him.
She questioned him, they spent an hour together,
and, as he gave her the scale of the concussion
from which he had rebounded, she found herself
saddened and frightened by the material he
seemed to offer her to deal with. It was devilish
awkward, and it was so in part because Owen
had no imagination. It had lodged itself in that
empty chamber that his mother hated the sur-
render because she hated Mona. He didn't of
course understand why she hated Mona, but this
belonged to an order of mysteries that never
troubled him : there were lots of things, especially
in people's minds, that a fellow didn't understand.
Poor Owen went through life with a frank dread
of people's minds : there were explanations he
would have been almost as shy of receiving as
of giving. There was therefore nothing that
accounted for anything, though in its way it was
vivid enough, in his picture to Fleda of his
mother's virtual refusal to move. That was simply
what it was; for didn't she refuse to move when
she as good as declared that she would move
only with the furniture? It was the furniture
he wouldn't give up; and what was the good
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 45
of Poynton without the furniture ? Besides, the
furniture happened to be his, just as everything
else happened to be. The furniture the word,
on his lips, had somehow, for Fleda, the sound
of washing-stands and copious bedding, and she
could well imagine the note it might have struck
for Mrs. Gereth. The girl, in this interview with
him, spoke of the contents of the house only as
"the works of art." It didn't, however, in the
least matter to Owen what they were called;
what did matter, she easily guessed, was that it
had been laid upon him by Mona, been made
in effect a condition of her consent, that he
should hold his mother to the strictest accounta-
bility for them. Mona had already entered upon
the enjoyment of her rights. She had made him
feel that Mrs. Gereth had been liberally provided
for, and had asked him cogently what room there
would be at Ricks for the innumerable treasures
of the big house. Ricks, the sweet little place
offered to the mistress of Poynton as the refuge
of her declining years, had been left to the late
Mr. Gereth a considerable time before his death
by an old maternal aunt, a good lady who had
spent most of her life there. The house had in
recent times been let, but it was amply furnished,
it contained all the defunct aunt's possessions.
Owen had lately inspected it, and he communi-
cated to Fleda that he had quietly taken Mona
to see it. It wasn't a place like Poynton what
dower-house ever was? but it was an awfully
46 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
jolly little place, and Mona had taken a tremen-
dous fancy to it. If there were a few things at
Poynton that were Mrs. Gereth's peculiar pro-
perty, of course she must take them away with
her ; but one of the matters that became clear to
Fleda was that this transfer would be immedi-
ately subject to Miss Brigstock's approval. The
special business that she herself now became
aware of being charged with was that of seeing
Mrs. Gereth safely and singly off the premises.
Her heart failed her, after Owen had returned
to London, with the ugliness of this duty with
the ugliness indeed of the whole close conflict.
She saw nothing of Mrs. Gereth that day ; she
spent it in roaming with sick sighs, in feeling, as
she passed from room to room, that what was
expected of her companion was really dreadful.
It would have been better never to have had
such a place than to have had it and lose it. It
was odious to her to have to look for solutions :
what a strange relation between mother and son
when there was no fundamental tenderness out
of which a solution would irrepressibly spring !
Was it Owen who was mainly responsible for
that poverty ? Fleda couldn't think so when she
remembered that, so far as he was concerned,
Mrs. Gereth would still have been welcome to keep
her seat by the Poynton fire. The fact that from
the moment one accepted his marrying one saw
no very different course for Owen to take this
fact made her all the rest of that aching day find
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 47
her best relief in the mercy of not having yet to
face her hostess. She dodged and dreamed and
romanced away the time. Instead of inventing a
remedy or a compromise, instead of preparing a
plan by which a scandal might be averted, she
gave herself, in her sentient solitude, up to a
mere fairy-tale, up to the very taste of the beau-
tiful peace with which she would have filled the
air if only something might have been that could
never have been.
" I'LL give up the house if they'll let me take
what I require ! " that, on the morrow, was what
Mrs. Gereth's stifled night had qualifed her to
say with a tragic face at breakfast. Fleda re-
flected that what she " required " was simply
every object that surrounded them. The poor
woman would have admitted this truth and ac-
cepted the conclusion to be drawn from it, the
reduction to the absurd of her attitude, the exalt-
ation of her revolt. The girl's dread of a scan-
dal, of spectators and critics, diminished the more
she saw how little vulgar avidity had to do with
this rigour. It was not the crude love of posses-
sion ; it was the need to be faithful to a trust and
loyal to an idea. The idea was surely noble ; it
was that of the beauty Mrs. Gereth had so
patiently and consummately wrought. Pale but
radiant, her back to the wall, she rose there like
a heroine guarding a treasure. To give up the
ship was to flinch from her duty ; there was
something in her eyes that declared she would
die at her post. If their difference should become
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 49
public the shame would be all for the others.
If Waterbath thought it could afford to expose
itself, then Waterbath was welcome to the folly.
Her fanaticism gave her a new distinction, and
Fleda perceived almost with awe that she had
never carried herself so well. She trod the place
like a reigning queen or a proud usurper; full
as it was of splendid pieces it could show in these
days no ornament so effective as its menaced
Our young lady's spirit was strangely divided ;
she had a tenderness for Owen which she deeply
concealed, yet it left her occasion to marvel at
the way a man was made who could care in any
relation for a creature like Mona Brigstock when
he had known in any relation a creature like
Adela Gereth. With such a mother to give him
the pitch how could he take it so low? She
wondered that she didn't despise him for this,
but there was something that kept her from it.
If there had been nothing else it would have
sufficed that she really found herself from this
moment the medium of communication with him.
"He'll come -back to assert himself," Mrs.
Gereth had said ; and the following week Owen
in fact re-appeared. He might merely have writ-
ten, Fleda could see, but he had come in person
because it was at once " nicer " for . his . mother
and stronger for his cause. He didn't .like the
row, though Mona probably did ; if he hadn't
a sense of beauty he had after all a sense of
50 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
justice; but it was inevitable he should clearly
announce at Poynton the date at which he must
look to find the house vacant. " You don't think
I'm rough or hard, do you ? " he asked of Fleda,
his impatience shining in his idle eyes as the
dining-hour shines in club-windows. " The place
at Ricks stands there with open arms. And
then I give her lots of time. Tell her she can
remove everything that belongs to her." Fleda
recognised the elements of what the newspapers
call a deadlock in the circumstance that nothing
at Poynton belonged to Mrs. Gereth either more
or less than anything else. She must either take
everything or nothing, and the girl's suggestion
was that it might perhaps be an inspiration to
do the latter and begin again on a clean page.
What, however, was the poor woman in that case
to begin with? What was she to do at all on
her meagre income but make the best of the
objets d'art of Ricks, the treasures collected by
Mr. Gereth's maiden-aunt? She had never been
near the place : for long years it had been let to
strangers, and after that the foreboding that it
would be her doom had kept her from the abase-
ment of it. She had felt that she should see it
soon enough, but Fleda (who was careful not to
betray to her that Mona had seen it and had
been gratified) knew her reasons for believing
that the maiden-aunt's principles had had much
in common with the principles of Waterbath.
The only thing, in short, that she would ever
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 51
have to do with the objets (Tart of Ricks would
be to turn them out into the road. What be-
longed to her at Poynton, as Owen said, would
conveniently mitigate the void resulting from that
The exchange of observations between the
friends had grown very direct by the time Fleda
asked Mrs. Gereth whether she literally meant
to shut herself up and stand a siege, or whether
it was her idea to expose herself, more informally,
to be dragged out of the house by constables.
"Oh, I prefer the constables and the dragging!"
the heroine of Poynton had answered. " I want
to make Owen and Mona do everything that will
be most publicly odious." She gave it out that
it was her one thought now to force them to a
line that would dishonour them and dishonour
the tradition they embodied, though Fleda was
privately sure that she had visions of an alternative
policy. The strange thing was that, proud and
fastidious all her life, she now showed so little
distaste for the world's hearing of the squabble.
What had taken place in her above all was that
a long resentment had ripened. She hated the
effacement to which English usage reduced the
widowed mother ; she had discoursed of it pas-
sionately to Fleda ; contrasted it with the beautiful
homage paid in other countries to women in that
position, women no better than herself, whom she
had seen acclaimed and enthroned, whom she had
known and envied ; made in short as little as
52 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
possible a secret of the injury, the bitterness she
found in it. The great wrong Owen had done her
was not his "taking up" with Mona that was
disgusting, but it was a detail, an accidental form ;
it was his failure from the first to understand what
it was to have a mother at all, to appreciate the
beauty and sanctity of the character. She was
just his mother as his nose was just his nose, and
he had never had the least imagination or tender-
ness or gallantry about her. One's mother, gracious
heaven, if one were the kind of fine young man
one ought to be, the only kind Mrs. Gereth cared
for, was a subject for poetry, for idolatry. Hadn't
she often told Fleda of her friend Madame de
Jaume, the wittiest of women, but a small, black
crooked person, each of whose three boys, when
absent, wrote to her every day of their lives ? She
had the house in Paris, she had the house in
Poitou, she had more than in the lifetime of her
husband (to whom, in spite of her appearance, she
had afforded repeated cause for jealousy), because
she had to the end of her days the supreme word
about everything. It was easy to see that Mrs.
Gereth would have given again and again her
complexion, her figure, and even perhaps the
spotless virtue she had still more successfully
retained, to have been the consecrated Madame
de Jaume. She wasn't, alas, and this was what
she had at present a magnificent occasion to
protest against. She was of course fully aware
of Owen's concession, his willingness to let her
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 53
take away with her the few things she liked best ;
but as yet she only declared that to meet him on
this ground would be to give him a triumph, to
put him impossibly in the right. " Liked best ? "
There wasn't a thing in the house that she didn't
like best, and what she liked better still was to be
left where she was. How could Owen use such
an expression without being conscious of his
hypocrisy? Mrs. Gereth, whose criticism was often
gay, dilated with sardonic humour on the happy
look a dozen objects from Poynton would wear
and the charming effect they would conduce to
when interspersed with the peculiar features of
Ricks. What had her whole life been but an
effort toward completeness and perfection ? Better
Waterbath at once, in its cynical unity, than the
ignominy of such a mixture !
All this was of no great help to Fleda, in so far
as Fleda tried to rise to her mission of rinding a
way out. When at the end of a fortnight Owen
came down once more, it was ostensibly to tackle
a farmer whose proceedings had been irregular;
the girl was sure, however, that he had really
come, on the instance of Mona, to see what his
mother was doing. He wished to satisfy himself
that she was preparing her departure, and he
wished to perform a duty, distinct but not less
imperative, in regard to the question of the per-
quisites with which she would retreat. The tension
between them was now such that he had to
perpetrate these offences without meeting his
54 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
adversary. Mrs. Gereth was as willing as himself
that he should address to Fleda Vetch whatever
cruel remarks he might have to make; she only
pitied her poor young friend for repeated en-
counters with a person as to whom she perfectly
understood the girl's repulsion. Fleda thought it
nice of Owen not to have expected her to write
to him; he wouldn't have wished any more than
herself that she should have the air of spying on
his mother in his interest. What made it comfort-
able to deal with him in this more familiar way
was the sense that she understood so perfectly how
poor Mrs. Gereth suffered, and that she measured
so adequately the sacrifice the other side did take
rather monstrously for granted. She understood
equally how Owen himself suffered, now that
Mona had already begun to make him do things
he didn't like. Vividly Fleda apprehended how
she would have first made him like anything she
would have made him do; anything even as dis-
agreeable as this appearing there to state, virtually
on Mona's behalf, that of course there must be a
definite limit to the number of articles appro-
priated. She took a longish stroll with him in
order to talk the matter over ; to say if she didn't
think a dozen pieces, chosen absolutely at will,
would be a handsome allowance ; and above all to
consider the very delicate question of whether the
advantage enjoyed by Mrs. Gereth mightn't be left
to her honour. To leave it so was what Owen
wished ; but there was plainly a young lady at
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 55
Waterbath to whom, on his side, he already had
to render an account. He was as touching in his
off-hand annoyance as his mother was tragic- in her
intensity ; for if he couldn't help having a sense of
propriety about the whole matter, so he could as
little help hating it. It was for his hating it, Fleda
reasoned, that she liked him so, and her insistence
to his mother on the hatred perilously resembled
on one or two occasions a revelation of the liking.
There were moments when, in conscience, that
revelation pressed her; inasmuch as it was just on
the ground of her not liking him that Mrs. Gereth
trusted her so much. Mrs. Gereth herself didn't in
these days like him at all, and she was of course
and always on Mrs. Gereth's side. He ended
really, while the preparations for his marriage went
on, by quite a little custom of coming and going ;
but at no one of these junctures would his mother
receive him. He talked only with Fleda and
strolled with Fleda; and when he asked her, in
regard to the great matter, if Mrs. Gereth were
really doing nothing, the girl usually replied : " She
pretends not to be, if I may say so ; but I think
she's really thinking over what she'll take." When
her friend asked her what Owen was doing she
could have but one answer : " He's waiting, dear
lady, to see what you do ! "
Mrs. Gereth, a month after she had received her
great shock, did something abrupt and extra-
ordinary : she caught up her companion and went
to have a look at Ricks. They had come to
56 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
London first and taken a train from Liverpool
Street, and the least of the sufferings they were
armed against was that of passing the night.
Fleda's admirable dressing-bag had been given her
by her friend. " Why, it's charming ! " she ex-
claimed a few hours later, turning back again into
the small prim parlour from a friendly advance to
the single plate of the window. Mrs. Gereth hated
such windows, the one flat glass, sliding up and
down, especially when they enjoyed a view of four
iron pots on pedestals, painted white and con-
taining ugly geraniums, ranged on the edge of a
gravel-path and doing their best to give it the air
of a terrace. Fleda had instantly averted her
eyes from these ornaments, but Mrs. Gereth grimly
gazed, wondering of course how a place in the
deepest depths of Essex and three miles from a
small station could contrive to look so suburban.
The room was practically a shallow box, with the
junction of the walls and ceiling guiltless of curve
or cornice and marked merely by the little band
of crimson paper glued round the top of the other
paper, a turbid grey sprigged with silver flowers.
This decoration was rather new and quite fresh ;
and there was in the centre of the ceiling a big
square beam papered over in white, as to which
Fleda hesitated about venturing to remark that it
was rather picturesque. She recognised in time
that this remark would be weak and that, through-
out, she should be able to say nothing either for
the mantelpieces or for the doors, of which she
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 57
saw her companion become sensible with a sound-
less moan. On the subject of doors especially
Mrs. Gereth had the finest views : the thing in
the world she most despised was the meanness of
the single flap. From end to end, at Poynton,
there were high double leaves. At Ricks the
entrances to the rooms were like the holes of
It was all, none the less, not so bad as Fleda had
feared ; it was faded and melancholy, whereas
there had been a danger that it would be contra-
dictious and positive, cheerful and loud. The
house was crowded with objects of which the
aggregation somehow made a thinness and the
futility a grace ; things that told her they had been
gathered as slowly and as lovingly as the golden
flowers of Poynton. She too, for a home, could
have lived with them : they made her fond of the
old maiden-aunt ; they made her even wonder if it
didn't work more for happiness not to have tasted,
as she herself had done, of knowledge. Without
resources, without a stick, as she said, of her own,
Fleda was moved, after all, to some secret surprise
at the pretensions of a shipwrecked woman who
could hold such an asylum cheap. The more she
looked about the surer she felt of the character
of the maiden-aunt, the sense of whose dim pre-
sence urged her to pacification : the maiden-aunt
had been a dear; she would have adored the
maiden-aunt. The poor lady had had some tender
little story ; she had been sensitive and ignorant
58 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
and exquisite : that too was a sort of origin, a
sort of atmosphere for relics and rarities, though
different from the sorts most prized at Poynton.
Mrs. Gereth had of course more than once said
that one of the deepest mysteries of life was the
way that, by certain natures, hideous objects could
be loved. But it wasn't a question of love, now,
for these ; it was only a question of a certain
practical patience. Perhaps some thought of that
kind had stolen over Mrs. Gereth when, at the end
of a brooding hour, she exclaimed, taking in the
house with a strenuous sigh : " Well, something
can be done with it ! " Fleda had repeated to her
more than once the indulgent fancy about the
maiden-aunt she was so sure she had deeply suf-
fered. " I'm sure I hope she did ! " was, however,
all that Mrs. Gereth had replied.
IT was a great relief to the girl at last to per-
ceive that the dreadful move would really be
made. What might happen if it shouldn't had
been from the first indefinite. It was absurd to
pretend that any violence was probable a tussle,
dishevelment, shrieks ; yet Fleda had an imagin-
ation of a drama, a " great scene," a thing, some-
how, of indignity and misery, of wounds inflicted
and received, in which indeed, though Mrs. Gereth's
presence, with movements and sounds, loomed
large to her, Owen remained indistinct and on the
whole unaggressive. He wouldn't be there with
a cigarette in his teeth, very handsome and inso-
lently quiet : that was only the way he would be
in a novel, across whose interesting page some
such figure, as she half closed her eyes, seemed to
her to walk. Fleda had rather, and indeed with
shame, a confused, pitying vision of Mrs. Gereth
with her great scene left in a manner on her hands,
Mrs. Gereth missing her effect and having to
appear merely hot and injured and in the wrong.
The symptoms that she would be spared even
6o THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
that spectacle resided not so much, through the
chambers of Poynton, in an air of concentration as
in the hum of buzzing alternatives. There was
no common preparation, but one day, at the turn
of a corridor, she found her hostess standing very
still, with the hanging hands of an invalid and the
active eyes of an adventurer. These eyes appeared
to Fleda to meet her own with a strange, dim
bravado, and there was a silence, almost awkward,
before either of the friends spoke. The girl after-
wards thought of the moment as one in which
her hostess mutely accused her of an accusation,
meeting it, however, at the same time, by a kind
of defiant acceptance. Yet it was with mere
melancholy candour that Mrs. Gereth at last
sighingly exclaimed : " I'm thinking over what I
had better take ! " Fleda could have embraced
her for this virtual promise of a concession, the
announcement that she had finally accepted the
problem of knocking together a shelter with the
small salvage of the wreck.
It was true that when after their return from
Ricks they tried to lighten the ship the great
embarrassment was still immutably there, the
odiousness of sacrificing the exquisite things one
wouldn't take to the exquisite things one would.
This immediately made the things one wouldn't
take the very things one ought to, and, as Mrs.
Gereth said, condemned one, in the whole business,
to an eternal vicious circle. In such a circle, for
days, she had been tormentedly moving, prowling
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 61
up and down, comparing incomparables. It was
for that one had to cling to them and their faces
of supplication. Fleda herself could judge of
these faces, so conscious of their race and their
danger, and she had little enough to say when her
companion asked her if the whole place, perversely
fair on October afternoons, looked like a place to
give up. It looked, to begin with, through some
effect of season and light, larger than ever, im-
mense, and it was filled with the hush of sorrow,
which in turn was all charged with memories.
Everything was in the air every history of every
find, every circumstance of every struggle. Mrs.
Gereth had drawn back every curtain and removed
every cover ; she prolonged the vistas, opened
wide the whole house, gave it an appearance of
awaiting a royal visit. The shimmer of wrought
substances spent itself in the brightness ; the old
golds and brasses, old ivories and bronzes, the
fresh old tapestries and deep old damasks threw
out a radiance in which the poor woman saw in
solution all her old loves and patiences, all her old
tricks and triumphs.
Fleda had a depressed sense of not, after all,
helping her much : this was lightened indeed by
the fact that Mrs. Gereth, letting her off easily,
didn't now seem to expect it. Her sympathy, her
interest, her feeling for everything for which Mrs.
Gereth felt, were a force that really worked to pro-
long the deadlock. " I only wish I bored you and
my possessions bored you," that lady, with some
62 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
humour, declared ; " then you'd make short work
with me, bundle me off, tell me just to pile certain
things into a cart and have done." Fleda's sharpest
difficulty was in having to act up to the character
of thinking Owen a brute, or at least to carry off
the inconsistency of seeing him when he came
down. By good fortune it was her duty, her func-
tion, as well as a protection to Mrs. Gereth. She
thought of him perpetually, and her eyes had come
to rejoice in his manly magnificence more even
than they rejoiced in the royal cabinets of the red
saloon. She wondered, very faintly at first, why he
came so often ; but of course she knew nothing
about the business he had in hand, over which, with
men red-faced and leather-legged, he was sometimes
closeted for an hour in a room of his own that was
the one monstrosity of Poynton : all tobacco-pots
and bootjacks, his mother had said such an array
of arms of aggression and castigation that he him-
self had confessed to eighteen rifles and forty whips.
He was arranging for settlements on his wife, he
was doing things that would meet the views of the
Brigstocks. Considering the house was his own,
Fleda thought it nice of him to keep himself in the
background while his mother remained ; making
his visits, at some cost of ingenuity about trains
from town, only between meals, doing everything
to let it press lightly upon her that he was there.
This was rather a stoppage to her meeting Mrs.
Gereth on the ground of his being a brute ; the
most she really at last could do was not to con-
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 63
tradict her when she repeated that he was watching
just insultingly watching. He was watching, no
doubt ; but he watched somehow with his head
turned away. He knew that Fleda knew at present
what he wanted of her, so that it would be gross
of him to say it over and over. It existed as a
confidence between them and made him some-
times, with his wandering stare, meet her eyes as
if a silence so pleasant could only unite them the
more. He had no great flow of speech, certainly,
and at first the girl took for granted that this was
all there was to be said about the matter. Little
by little she speculated as to whether, with a person
who, like herself, could put him, after all, at a sort
of domestic ease, it was not supposable that he
would have more conversation if he were not keep-
ing some of it back for Mona.
From the moment she suspected he might be
thinking what Mona would say to his chattering
so to an underhand " companion," an inmate all but
paid, this young lady's repressed emotion began
to require still more repression. She grew impa-
tient of her situation at Poyton ; she privately
pronounced it false and horrid. She said to her-
self that she had let Owen know that she had, to
the best of her power, directed his mother in the
general sense he desired ; that he quite understood
it and that he also understood how unworthy it was
of either of them to stand over the good lady with
a notebook and a lash. Wasn't this practical
unanimity just practical success? Fleda became
64 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
aware of a sudden desire, as well as of pressing
reasons, to bring her stay at Poynton to a close.
She had not, on the one hand, like a minion of the
law, undertaken to see Mrs. Gereth down to the
train and locked, in sign of her abdication, into a
compartment ; neither had she on the other com-
mitted herself to hold Owen indefinitely in dalliance
while his mother gained time or dug a counter-
mine. Besides, people were saying that she fastened
like a leech on other people people who had
houses where Something was to be picked up : this
revelation was frankly made her by her sister, now
distinctly doomed to the curate and in view of
whose nuptials she had almost finished, as a pre-
sent, a wonderful piece of embroidery, suggested,
at Poynton, by an old Spanish altar-cloth. She
would have to exert herself still further for the
intended recipient of this offering, turn her out for
her marriage with more than that drapery. She
would go up to town, in short, to dress Maggie;
and their father, in lodgings at West Kensington,
would stretch a point and take them in. He, to
do him justice, never reproached her with profitable
devotions ; so far as they existed he consciously
profited by them. Mrs. Gereth gave her up as
heroically as if she had been a great bargain, and
Fleda knew that she wouldn't at present miss any
visit of Owen's, for Owen was shooting at Water-
bath. Owen shooting was Owen lost, and there
was scant sport at Poynton.
The first news she had from Mrs. Gereth was
TH SPOILS OF POYNTON 6$
news of that lady's having accomplished, in form
at least, her migration. The letter was dated from
Ricks, to which place she had been transported by
an impulse apparently as sudden as the inspiration
she had obeyed before. " Yes, I've literally come,"
she wrote, " with a bandbox and a kitchen-maid ;
I've crossed the Rubicon, I've taken possession.
It has been like plumping into cold water. I saw
the only thing was to do it, not to stand shivering.
I shall have warmed the place a little by simply
being here for a week ; when I come back the ice
will have been broken. I didn't write to you to
meet me on my way through town, because I know
how busy you are and because, besides, I'm too
savage and odious to be fit company even for
you. You'd say I really go too far, and there's no
doubt whatever I do. I'm here, at any rate, just to
look round once more, to see that certain things are
done before I enter in force. I shall probably be
at Poynton all next week. There's more room
than I quite measured the other day, and a rather
good set of old Worcester. But what are space
and time, what's even old Worcester, to your
wretched and affectionate A. G. ? "
The day after Fleda received this letter she had
occasion to go into a big shop in Oxford Street a
journey that she achieved circuitously, first on foot
and then by the aid of two omnibuses. The second
of these vehicles put her down on the side of the
street opposite her shop, and while, on the curb-
stone, she humbly waited, with a parcel, an umbrella
66 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
and a tucked-up frock, to cross in security, she
became aware that, close beside her, a hansom had
pulled up short, in obedience to the brandished
stick of a demonstrative occupant. This occupant
was Owen Gereth, who had caught sight of her as
he rattled along and who, with an exhibition of
white teeth that, from under the hood of the cab,
had almost flashed through the fog, now alighted to
ask her if he couldn't give her a lift. On finding
that her destination was just over the way he dis-
missed his vehicle and joined her, not only piloting
her to the shop, but taking her in ; with the assur-
ance that his errands didn't matter, that it amused
him to be concerned with hers. She told him she
had come to buy a trimming for her sister's frock,
and he expressed an hilarious interest in the pur-
chase. His hilarity was almost always out of pro-
portion to the case, but it struck her at present as
more so than ever ; especially when she had sug-
gested that he might find it a good time to buy a
garnishment of some sort for Mona. After won-
dering an instant whether he gave the full satiric
meaning, such as it was, to this remark, Fleda
dismissed the possibility as inconceivable. He
stammered out that it was for her he would like to
buy something, something " ripping," and that she
must give him the pleasure of telling him what
would best please her. He couldn't have a better
opportunity for making her a present the present,
in recognition of all she had done for Mummy
that he had had in his head for weeks.
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 67
Fleda had more than one small errand in the
big bazaar, and he went up and down with her,
pointedly patient, pretending to be interested in
questions of tape and of change. She had now
not the least hesitation in wondering what Mona
would think of such proceedings. But they were
not her doing they were Owen's ; and Owen,
inconsequent and even extravagant, was unlike
anything she had ever seen him before. He broke
off, he came back, he repeated questions without
heeding answers, he made vague abrupt remarks
about the resemblances of shopgirls and the uses
of chiffon. He unduly prolonged their business
together, giving Fleda a sense that he was putting
off something particular that he had to face. If
she had ever dreamed of Owen Gereth as nervous
she would have seen him with some such manner
as this. But why should he be nervous? Even
at the height of the crisis his mother hadn't made
him so, and at present he was satisfied about his
mother. The one idea he stuck to was that Fleda
should mention something she would let him give
her : there was everything in the world in the
wonderful place, and he made her incongruous
offers a travelling-rug, a massive clock, a table
for breakfast in bed, and above all, in a resplendent
binding, a set of somebody's " works." His notion
was a testimonial, a tribute, and the "works"
would be a graceful intimation that it was her
cleverness he wished above all to commemorate.
He was immensely in earnest, but the articles he
68 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
pressed upon her betrayed a delicacy that went to
her heart : what he would really have liked, as he
saw them tumbled about, was one of the splendid
stuffs for a gown a choice proscribed by his fear
of seeming to patronize her, to refer to her small
means and her deficiencies. Fleda found it easy
to chaff him about his exaggeration of her deserts ;
she gave the just measure of them in consenting
to accept a small pin-cushion, costing sixpence, in
which the letter F was marked out with pins. A
sense of loyalty to Mona was not needed to enforce
this discretion, and after that first allusion to her
she never sounded her name. She noticed on this
occasion more things in Owen Gereth than she had
ever noticed before, but what she noticed most was,
that he said no word of his intended. She asked
herself what he had done, in so long a parenthesis,
with his loyalty or at least his " form " ; and then
reflected that even if he had done something very
good with them the situation in which such a
question could come up was already a little
strange. Of course he wasn't doing anything so
vulgar as to make loye to her ; but there was a
kind of punctilio for a man who was engaged.
That punctilio didn't prevent Owen from re-
maining with her after they had left the shop, from
hoping she had a lot more to do, and from pressing
her to look with him, for a possible glimpse of
something she might really let him give her, into
the windows of other establishments. There was
a moment when, under this pressure, she made up
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 69
her mind that hrs tribute would be, if analysed, a
tribute to her insignificance. But all the same he
wanted her to come somewhere and have luncheon
with him : what was that a tribute to ? She must
have counted very little if she didn't count too
much for a romp in a restaurant. She had to get
home with her trimming, and the most, in his
company, she was amenable to was a retracing of
her steps to the Marble Arch and then, after a
discussion when they had reached it, a walk with
him across the Park. She knew Mona would have
considered that she ought to take the omnibus
again ; but she had now to think for Owen as well
as for herself she couldn't think for Mona. Even
'in the Park the autumn air was thick, and as they
moved westward over the grass, which was what
Owen preferred, the cool grey ness made their
words soft, made them at last rare and everything
else dim. He wanted to stay with her he wanted
not to leave her : he had dropped into complete
silence, but that was what his silence said. What
was it he had postponed ? What was it he wanted
still to postpone ? She grew a little scared as they
strolled together and she thought. It was too
confused to be believed, but it was as if somehow
he felt differently. Fleda Vetch didn't suspect
him at first of feeling differently to her, but only
of feeling differently to Mona ; yet she was not
unconscious that this latter difference would have
had something to do with his being on the grass
beside her. She had read in novels about gentle-
70 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
men who on the eve of marriage, winding up the
past, had surrendered themselves for the occasion
to the influence of a former tie ; and there was
something in Owen's behaviour now, something in
his very face, that suggested a resemblance to one
of those gentlemen. But whom and what, in that
case, would Fleda herself resemble ? She wasn't a
former tie, she wasn't any tie at all ; she was only
a deep little person for whom happiness was a
kind of pearl-diving plunge. It was down at the
very bottom of all that had lately occurred ; for
all that had lately occurred was that Owen Gereth
had come and gone at Poynton. That was the
small sum of her experience, and what it had
made for her was her own affair, quite consistent
with her not having dreamed it had made a tie
at least what she called one for Owen. The old
one, at any rate, was Mona Mona whom he had
known so very much longer.
They walked far, to the south-west corner of the
great Gardens, where, by the old round pond and
the old red palace, when she had put out her hand
to him in farewell, declaring that from the gate
she must positively take a conveyance, it seemed
suddenly to rise between them that this was a real
separation. She was on his mother's side, she
belonged to his mother's life, and his mother, in
the future, would never come to Poynton. After
what had passed she wouldn't even be at his
wedding, and it was not possible now that Mr.
Gereth should mention that ceremony to the girl,
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 71
much less express a wish that the girl should be
present at it. Mona, from decorum and with
reference less to the bridegroom than to the bride-
groom's mother, would of course not invite any
such girl as Fleda. Everything therefore was
ended ; they would go their different ways ; this
was the last time they would stand face to face.
They looked at each other with the fuller sense of
it and, on Owen's part, with an expression of dumb
trouble, the intensification of his usual appeal to
any interlocutor to add the right thing to what he
said. To Fleda at this moment it appeared that
the right thing might easily be the wrong. At
any rate he only said : " I want you to understand,
you know I want you to understand."
What did he want her to understand ? He
seemed unable to bring it out, and this under-
standing was moreover exactly what she wished
not to arrive at. Bewildered as she was, she had
already taken in as much as she should know what
to do with ; the blood also was rushing into her
face. He liked her it was stupefying more
than he really ought : that was what was the
matter with him and what he desired her to
swallow ; so that she was suddenly as frightened
as some thoughtless girl who finds herself the
object of an overture from a married man.
" Good-bye, Mr. Gereth I must get on ! " she
declared with a cheerfulness that she felt to be an
unnatural grimace. She broke away from him
sharply, smiling, backing across the grass and then
72 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
turning altogether and moving as fast as she could.
" Good-bye, good-bye ! " she threw off again as she
went, wondering if he would overtake her before
she reached the gate ; conscious with a red disgust
that her movement was almost a run ; conscious
too of just the confused handsome face with which
he would look after her. She felt as if she had
answered a kindness with a great flouncing snub
but in any case she had got away, though the
distance to the gate, her ugly gallop down the
Broad Walk, every graceless jerk of which hurt
her, seemed endless. She signed from afar to a
cab on the stand in the Kensington Road and
scrambled into it, glad of the encompassment of
the four-wheeler that had officiously obeyed her
summons and that, at the end of twenty yards,
when she had violently pulled up a glass, permitted
her to recognise the fact that she was on the point
of bursting into tears.
As soon as her sister was married she went
down to Mrs. Gereth at Ricks a promise to this
effect having been promptly exacted and given ;
and her inner vision was much more fixed on the
alterations there, complete now as she understood,
than on the success of her plotting and pinching
for Maggie's happiness. Her imagination, in the
interval, had indeed had plenty to do and numerous
scenes to visit ; for when on the summons just
mentioned it had taken a flight from West
Kensington to Ricks, it had hung but an hour
over the terrace of painted pots and then yielded
to a current of the upper air that swept it straight
off to Poynton and to Waterbath. Not a sound
had reached her of any supreme clash, and Mrs.
Gereth had communicated next to nothing ; giving
out that, as was easily conceivable, she was too
busy, too bitter and too tired for vain civilities.
All she had written was that she had got the new
place well in hand and that Fleda would be
surprised at the way it was turning out. Every-
thing was even yet upside down ; nevertheless, in
the sense of having passed the threshold of Poynton
74 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
for the last time, the amputation, as she called it
had been performed. Her leg had come off she
had now begun to stump along with the lovely
wooden substitute ; she would stump for life, and
what her young friend was to come and admire
was the beauty of her movement and the noise she
made about the house. The reserve of Poynton
and Waterbath had been matched by the austerity
of Fleda's own secret, under the discipline of which
she had repeated to herself a hundred times a day
that she rejoiced at having cares that excluded all
thought of it. She had lavished herself, in act, on
Maggie and the curate, and had opposed to her
father's selfishness a sweetness quite ecstatic. The
young couple wondered why they had waited so
long, since everything was after all so easy. She
had thought of everything, even to how the
" quietness " of the wedding should be relieved by
champagne and her father kept brilliant on a
single bottle. Fleda knew, in short, and liked
the knowledge, that for several weeks she had
appeared exemplary in every relation of life.
She had been perfectly prepared to be surprised
at Ricks, for Mrs. Gereth was a wonder-working
wizard, with a command, when all was said, of
good material ; but the impression in wait for her
on the threshold made her catch her breath and
falter. Dusk had fallen when she arrived, and in
the plain square hall, one of the few good features,
the glow of a Venetian lamp just showed, on either
wall, the richness of an admirable tapestry. This
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 75
instant perception that the place had been dressed
at the expense of Poynton was a shock : it was as
if she had abruptly seen herself in the light of an
accomplice. The next moment, folded in Mrs.
Gereth's arms, her eyes were diverted ; but she had
already had, in a flash, the vision of the great gaps
in the other house. The two tapestries, not the
largest, but those most splendidly toned by time,
had been on the whole its most uplifted pride.
When she could really see again she was on a sofa
in the drawing-room, staring with intensity at an
object soon distinct as the great Italian cabinet
that, at Poynton, had been in the red saloon,
Without looking, she was sure the room was
occupied with other objects like it, stuffed with as
many as it could hold of the trophies of her friend's
struggle. By this time the very fingers of her
glove, resting on the seat of the sofa, had thrilled
at the touch of an old velvet brocade, a wondrous
texture that she could recognise, would have
recognised among a thousand, without dropping
her eyes on it. They stuck to the cabinet with a
kind of dissimulated dread, while she painfully
asked herself whether she should notice it, notice
everything, or just pretend not to be affected.
How could she pretend not to be affected, with the
very pendants of the lustres tinkling at her, and
with Mrs. Gereth beside her and staring at her
even as she herself stared at the cabinet, hunching
up a back like Atlas under his globe ? She was
appalled at this image of what Mrs. Gereth had on
76 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
her shoulders. That lady was waiting and watch-
ing her, bracing herself and preparing the same
face of confession and defiance she had shown the
day, at Poynton, she had been surprised in the
corridor. It was farcical not to speak ; and yet to
exclaim, to participate, would give one a bad sense
of being mixed up with a theft. This ugly word
sounded, for herself, in Fleda's silence, and the very
violence of it jarred her into a scared glance, as of
a creature detected, to right and left. But what
again the full picture most showed her was the
far-away empty sockets, a scandal of nakedness in
high, bare walls. She at last uttered something
formal and incoherent she didn't know what : it
had no relation to either house. Then she felt
Mrs. Gereth's hand once more on her arm. " I've
arranged a charming room for you it's really
lovely. You'll be very happy there." This was
spoken with extraordinary sweetness and with a
smile that meant : " Oh, I know what you're think-
ing ; but what does it matter when you're so loyally
on my side?" It had come indeed to a question
of " sides," Fleda thought, for the whole place was
in battle array. In the soft lamplight, with one
fine feature after another looming up into sombre
richness, it defied her not to pronounce it a triumph
of taste. Her passion for beauty leaped back into
life ; and was not what now most appealed to it a
certain gorgeous audacity? Mrs. Gereth's high
hand was, as mere great effect, the climax of the
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 77
" It's too wonderful, what you've done with the
house ! " the visitor met her friend's eyes. They
lighted up with joy that friend herself so pleased
with what she had done. This was not at all, in
its accidental air of enthusiasm, what Fleda wanted
to have said : it offered her as stupidly announcing
from the first minute on whose side she was. Such
was clearly the way Mrs. Gereth took it; she threw
herself upon the delightful girl and tenderly em-
braced her again ; so that Fleda soon went on, with
a studied difference and a cooler inspection :
" Why, you brought away absolutely everything ! "
" Oh no, not everything. I saw how little I
could get into this scrap of a house. I only
brought away what I required."
Fleda had got up ; she took a turn round the
room. " You ' required ' the very best pieces the
morceaux de musee, the individual gems ! "
" I certainly didn't want the rubbish, if that's
what you mean." Mrs. Gereth, on the sofa, fol-
lowed the direction of her companion's eyes ; with
the light of her satisfaction still in her face she
slowly rubbed her large handsome hands. Wher-
ever she was, she was herself the great piece in the
gallery. It was the first Fleda had heard of there
being " rubbish " at Poynton, but she didn't for the
moment take up this insincerity; she only, from
where she stood in the room, called out, one after
the other, as if she had had a list before her, the
items that in the great house had been scattered and
that now, if they had a fault, were too much like a
78 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
minuet danced on a hearth-rug. She knew them
each, in every chink and charm knew them by
the personal name their distinctive sign or story
had given them ; and a second time she felt how,
against her intention, this uttered knowledge struck
her hostess as so much free approval. Mrs. Gereth
was never indifferent to approval, and there was
nothing she could so love you for as for doing
justice to her deep morality. There was a particular
gleam - in her eyes when Fleda exclaimed at last,
dazzled by the display : " And even the Maltese
cross ! " That description, though technically in-
correct, had always been applied at Poynton to a
small but marvellous crucifix of ivory, a master-
piece of delicacy, of expression and of the great
Spanish period, the existence and precarious acces-
sibility of which she had heard of at Malta, years
before, by an odd and romantic chance a clue
followed through mazes of secrecy till the treasure
was at last unearthed.
" * Even ' the Maltese cross ? " Mrs. Gereth rose
as she sharply echoed the words. " My dear child,
you don't suppose I'd have sacrificed that ! For
what in the world would you have taken me ? "
" A bibelot the more or less," Fleda said, " could
have made little difference in this grand general
view of you. I take you simply for the greatest of
all conjurers. You've operated with a quickness
and with a quietness ! " Her voice trembled a little
as she spoke, for the plain meaning of her words
was that what her friend had achieved belonged to
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 79
the class of operation, essentially involving the
protection of darkness. Fleda felt she really could
say nothing at all if she couldn't say that she knew
what the danger had been. She completed her
thought by a resolute and perfectly candid ques-
tion. " How in the world did you get off with
them ? "
Mrs. Gereth confessed to the fact of danger with
a cynicism that surprised the girl. " By calculating,
by choosing my time. I was quiet and I was
quick. I manoeuvred ; then at the last rushed ! "
Fleda drew a long breath : she saw in the poor
woman something much better than sophistical
ease, a crude elation that was a comparatively
simple state to deal with. Her elation, it was
true, was not so much from what she had done as
from the way she had done it by as brilliant a
stroke as any commemorated in the annals of
crime. " I succeeded because I had thought it all
out and left nothing to chance. The whole process
was organised in advance, so that the mere carry-
ing it into effect took but a few hours. It was
largely a matter of money : oh, I was horribly
extravagant I had to turn on so many people.
But they were all to be had a little army of
workers, 'the packers, the porters, the helpers of
every sort, the men with the mighty vans. It was
a question of arranging in Tottenham Court Road
and of paying the price. I haven't paid it yet;
there'll be a horrid bill ; but at least the thing's
done! Expedition pure and simple was the
So THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
essence of the bargain. * I can give you two days,'
I said ; ' I can't give you another second.' They
undertook the job, and the two days saw them
through. The people came down on a Tuesday
morning ; they were off on the Thursday. I admit
that some of them worked all Wednesday night.
I had thought it all out ; I stood over them ; I
showed them how. Yes, I coaxed them, I made
love to them. Oh, I was inspired they found me
wonderful. I neither ate nor slept, but I was as
calm as I am now. I didn't know what was in me ;
it was worth finding out. I'm very remarkable, my
dear : I lifted tons with my own arms. I'm tired,
very, very tired ; but there's neither a scratch nor
a nick, there isn't a teacup missing." Magnificent
both in her exhaustion and in her triumph, Mrs.
Gereth sank on the sofa again, the sweep of her
eyes a rich synthesis and the restless friction of her
hands a clear betrayal. " Upon my word," she
laughed, " they really look better here ! "
Fleda had listened in awe. "And no one at
Poynton said anything ? There was no alarm ? "
"What alarm should there have been? Owen
left me almost defiantly alone. I had taken a time
that I had reason to believe was safe from a
descent." Fleda had another wonder, which she
hesitated to express : it would scarcely do to ask
Mrs. Gereth if she hadn't stood in fear of her
servants. She knew moreover some of the secrets
of her humorous household rule, all made up of
shocks to shyness and provocations to curiosity a
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 81
diplomacy so artful that several of the maids quite
yearned to accompany her to Ricks. Mrs. Gereth,
reading sharply the whole of her visitor's thought,
caught it up with fine frankness. " You mean that
I was watched that he had his myrmidons,
pledged to wire him if they should see what I was
' up to ' ? Precisely. I know the three persons
you have in mind : I had them in mind myself.
Well, I took a line with them I settled them."
Fleda had had no one in particular in mind ; she
had never believed in the myrmidons ; but the tone
in which Mrs. Gereth spoke added to her suspense.
" What did you do to them ? "
" I took hold of them hard I put them in the
forefront. I made them work."
" To move the furniture ? "
" To help, and to help so as to please me. That
was the way to take them : it was what they had
least expected. I marched up to them and looked
each straight in the eye, giving him the chance to
choose if he'd gratify me or gratify my son. He
gratified me. They were too stupid ! "
Mrs. Gereth massed herself more and more as an
immoral woman, but Fleda had to recognise that
she too would have been stupid and she too would
have gratified her. " And when did all this take
" Only last week ; it seems a hundred years.
We've worked here as fast as we worked there, but
I'm not settled yet : you'll see in the rest of the
house. However, the worst is over."
82 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" Do you really think so ? " Fleda presently
inquired. " I mean, does he, after the fact, as it
were, accept it ? "
" Owen what I've done ? I haven't the least
idea," said Mrs. Gereth.
" Does Mona ? "
" You mean that she'll be the soul of the row ? "
" I hardly see Mona as the ' soul ' of anything,"
the girl replied. " But have they made no sound ?
Have you heard nothing at all ? "
" Not a whisper, not a step, in all the eight days.
Perhaps they don't know. Perhaps they're crouch-
ing for a leap."
" But wouldn't they have gone down as soon as
you left ? "
"They may not have known of my leaving."
Fleda wondered afresh ; it struck her as scarcely
supposable that some sign shouldn't have flashed
from Poynton to London. If the storm was taking
this term of silence to gather, even in Mona's
breast, it would probably discharge itself in some
startling form. The great hush of every one con-
cerned was strange ; but when she pressed Mrs.
Gereth for some explanation of it that lady only
replied with her brave irony : " Oh, I took their
breath away ! " She had no illusions, however ;
she was still prepared to fight. What indeed was
her spoliation of Poynton but the first engagement
of a campaign ?
All this was exciting, but Fleda's spirit dropped,
at bedtime, in the chamber embellished for her
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 83
pleasure, where she found several of the objects
that in her earlier room she had most admired.
These had been reinforced by other pieces from
other rooms, so that the quiet air of it was a
harmony without a break, the finished picture of a
maiden's bower. It was the sweetest Louis Seize,
all assorted and combined old chastened, figured,
faded France. Fleda was impressed anew with her
friend's genius for composition. She could say to
herself that no girl in England, that night, went to
rest with so picked a guard ; but there was no joy
for her in her privilege, no sleep even for the tired
hours that made the place, in the embers of the
fire and the winter dawn, look grey, somehow, and
loveless. She couldn't care for such things when
they came to her in such ways ; there was a wrong
about them all that turned them to ugliness. In
the watches of the night she saw Poynton dis-
honoured ; she had cherished it as a happy whole,
she reasoned, and the parts of it now around her
seemed to suffer like chopped limbs. Before going
to bed she had walked about with Mrs. Gereth and
seen at whose expense the whole house had been
furnished. At poor Owen's, from top to bottom
there wasn't a chair he hadn't sat upon. The
maiden aunt had been exterminated no trace of
her to tell her tale. Fleda tried to think of some of
the things at Poynton still unappropriated, but her
memory was a blank about them, and in trying to
focus the old combinations she saw again nothing
but gaps and scars, a vacancy that gathered at
84 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
moments into something worse. This concrete
image was her greatest trouble, for it was Owen
Gereth's face, his sad, strange eyes, fixed upon her
now as they had never been. They stared at her
out of the darkness, and their expression was more
than she could bear : it seemed to say that he was
in pain and that it was somehow her fault. He
had looked to her to help him, and this was what
her help had been. He had done her the honour
to ask her to exert herself in his interest, confiding
to her a task of difficulty, but of the highest deli-
cacy. Hadn't that been exactly the sort of service
she longed to render him? Well, her way of
rendering it had been simply to betray him and
hand him over to his enemy. Shame, pity, resent-
ment oppressed her in turn ; in the last of these
feelings the others were quickly submerged. Mrs.
Gereth had imprisoned her in that torment of taste ;
but it was clear to her for an hour at least that she
might hate Mrs. Gereth.
Something else, however, when morning came,
was even more intensely definite : the most odious
thing in the world for her would be ever again to
meet Owen. She took on the spot a resolve to
neglect no precaution that could lead to her going
through life without that calamity. After this,
while she dressed, she took still another. Her
position had become in a few hours intolerably
false ; in as few more hours as possible she would
therefore put an end to it. The way to put an end
to it would be to inform Mrs, Gereth that, to her
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 85
great regret, she couldn't be with her now, couldn't
cleave to her to the point that everything about her
so plainly urged. She dressed with a sort of
violence, a symbol of the manner in which this
purpose ? was precipitated. The more they parted
company the less likely she was to come across
Owen ; for Owen would be drawn closer to his
mother now by the very necessity of bringing her
down. Fleda, in the inconsequence of distress,
wished to have nothing to do with her fall ; she had
had too much to do with everything. She was
well aware of the importance, before breakfast
and in view of any light they might shed on the
question of motive, of not suffering her invidious
expression of a difference to be accompanied by
the traces of tears ; but it none the less came to
pass, down-stairs, that after she had subtly put her
back to the window to make a mystery of the state
of her eyes she stupidly let a rich sob escape her
before she could properly meet the consequences of
being asked if she wasn't delighted with her room.
This accident struck her on the "spot as so grave
that she felt the only refuge to be instant hypocrisy,
some graceful impulse that would charge her
emotion to the quickened sense of her friend's
generosity a demonstration entailing a flutter
round the table and a renewed embrace, and not so
successfully improvised but that Fleda fancied Mrs.
Gereth to have been only half reassured. She had
been startled at any rate and she might remain
suspicious : this reflection interposed by the time,
86 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
after breakfast, the girl had recovered sufficiently
to say what was in her heart. She accordingly
didn't say it that morning at all. She had absurdly
veered about ; she had encountered the shock of
the fear that Mrs. Gereth, with sharpened eyes,
might wonder why the deuce (she often wondered
in that phrase) she had grown so warm about
Owen's rights. She would doubtless at a pinch be
able to defend them on abstract grounds, but that
would involve a discussion, and the idea of a
discussion made her nervous for her secret. Until
in some way Poynton should return the blow and
give her a cue she must keep nervousness down ;
and she called herself a fool for having forgotten,
however briefly, that her one safety was in silence.
Directly after luncheon Mrs. Gereth took her into
the garden for a glimpse of the revolution or at
least, said the mistress of Ricks, of the great row
that had been decreed there; but the ladies had
scarcely placed themselves for this view before the
younger one found herself embracing a prospect
that opened in quite another quarter. Her atten-
tion was called to it, oddly, by the streamers of
the parlour-maid's cap, which, flying straight be-
hind the neat young woman who unexpectedly
burst from the house and showed a long red face
as she ambled over the grass, seemed to articulate
in their flutter the name that Fleda lived at present
only to catch. "Poynton Poynton!" said the
morsels of muslin ; so that the parlour-maid be-
came on the instant an actress in the drama, and
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 87
Fleda, assuming pusillanimously that she herself
was only a spectator, looked across the footlights
at the exponent of the principal part. The manner
in which this artist returned her look showed that
she was equally preoccupied. Both were haunted
alike by possibilities, but the apprehension of
neither, before the announcement was made, took
the form of the arrival at Ricks, in the flesh, of
Mrs. Gereth's victim. When the messenger in-
formed them that Mr. Gereth was in the drawing-
room the blank " Oh ! " emitted by Fleda was
quite as precipitate as the sound on her hostess's
lips, besides being, as she felt, much less pertinent.
" I thought it would be somebody," that lady after-
wards said ; " but I expected on the whole a
solicitor's clerk." Fleda didn't mention that she
herself had expected on the whole a pair of con-
stables. She was surprised by Mrs. Gereth's
question to the parlour-maid.
" For whom did he ask ? "
" Why, for you, of course, dearest friend ! " Fleda
interjected, falling instinctively into the address
that embodied the intensest pressure. She wanted
to put Mrs. Gereth between her and her danger.
" He asked for Miss Vetch, mum," the girl replied
with a face that brought startlingly to Fleda's ear
the muffled chorus of the kitchen.
"Quite proper," said Mrs. Gereth austerely. Then
to Fleda : " Please go to him."
" But what to do ? "
" What you always do to see what he wants."
88 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Mrs. Gereth dismissed the maid. " Tell him Miss
Vetch will come." Fleda saw that nothing was in
the mother's imagination at this moment but the
desire not to meet her son. She had completely
broken with him, and there was little in what had
just happened to repair the rupture. It would now
take more to do so than his presenting himself
uninvited at her door. " He's right in asking for
you he's aware that you're still our communi-
cator; nothing has occurred to alter that. To what
he wishes to transmit through you I'm ready, as
I've been ready before, to listen. As far as 7'm
concerned, if I couldn't meet him a month ago how
am I to meet him to-day ? If he has come to say,
' My dear mother, you're here, in the hovel into
which I've flung you, with consolations that give
me pleasure,' I'll listen to him ; but on no other
footing. That's what you're to ascertain, please.
You'll oblige me as you've obliged me before.
There ! " Mrs. Gereth turned her. back and, with a
fine imitation of superiority, began to redress the
miseries immediately before her. Fleda meanwhile
hesitated, lingered for some minutes where she had
been left, feeling secretly that her fate still had her
in hand. It had put her face to face with Owen
Gereth and it evidently meant to keep her so,
She was reminded afresh of two things : one of
which was that, though she judged her friend's
rigour, she had never really had the story of the
scene enacted in the great awe-stricken house
between the mother and the son weeks before
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 89
the day the former took to her bed in her over-
throw. The other was that at Ricks as at Poyn-
ton it was before all things her place to accept
thankfully a usefulness not, she must remember,
universally acknowledged. What determined her
at the last, while Mrs. Gereth disappeared in the
shrubbery, was that, though she was at a distance
from the house and the drawing-room was turned
the other way, she could absolutely see the young
man alone there with the sources of his pain.
She saw his simple stare at his tapestries, heard
his heavy tread on his carpets and the hard breath
of his sense of unfairness. At this she went to
" I ASKED for you," he said when she stood there,
" because I heard from the flyman who drove me
from the station to the inn that he had brought
you here yesterday. We had some talk he
" You didn't know I was here ? "
"No. I knew only that you had had, in London,
all that you told me, that day, to do ; and it was
Mona's idea that after your sister's marriage you
were staying on with your father. So I thought
you were with him still."
" I am," Fleda replied, idealising a little the fact.
" I'm here only for a moment. But do you mean,"
she went on, " that if you had known I was with
your mother you wouldn't have come down ? "
The way Owen hung fire at this question made
it sound more playful than she had intended. She
had in fact no consciousness of any intention but
that of confining herself rigidly to her function.
She could already see that in whatever he had now
braced himself for she was an element he had not
reckoned with. His preparation had been of a
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 91
different sort the sort congruous with his having
been careful to go first and lunch solidly at the
inn. He had not been forced to ask for her, but
she became aware in his presence of a particular
desire to make him feel that no harm could really
come to him. She might upset him, as people
called it, but she would take no advantage of
having done so. She had never seen a person
with whom she wished more to be light and easy,
to be exceptionally human. The account he
presently gave of the matter was that he indeed
wouldn't have come if he had known she was on
the spot ; because then, didn't she see ? he could
have written to her. He would have had her there
to let fly at his mother.
" That would have saved me well, it would
have saved me a lot. Of course I would rather
see you than her," he somewhat awkwardly added.
" When the fellow spoke of you I assure you I
quite jumped at you. In fact I've no real desire
to see Mummy at all. If she thinks I like it ! "
He sighed disgustedly. " I only came down because
it seemed better than any other way. I didn't want
her to be able to say I hadn't been all right. I
dare say you know she has taken everything ; or if
not quite everything, why a lot more than one
ever dreamed. You can see for yourself she has
got half the place down. She has got them
crammed you can see for yourself!" He had
his old trick of artless repetition, his helpless itera-
tion of the obvious ; but he was sensibly different,
92 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
for Fleda, if only by the difference of his clear face,
mottled over and almost disfigured by little points
of pain. He might have been a fine young man
with a bad toothache ; with the first even of his
life. What ailed him above all, she felt, was that
trouble was new to him. He had never known a
difficulty; he had taken all his fences, his world
wholly the world of the personally possible, rounded
indeed by a grey suburb into which he had never
had occasion to stray. In this vulgar and ill-
lighted region he had evidently now lost himself.
" We left it quite to her honour, you know," he said
" Perhaps you've a right to say that you left it
a little to mine." Mixed up with the spoils there,
rising before him as if she were in a manner their
keeper, she felt that she must absolutely disso-
qiate herself. Mrs. Gereth had made it impossible
to do anything but give her away. " I can only
tell you that on my side I left it to her. I never
dreamed either that she would pick out so many
" And you don't really think it's fair, do you ?
You don't ! " He spoke very quickly ; he really
seemed to plead.
Fleda faltered a moment. " I think she has
gone too far." Then she added : " I shall imme-
diately tell her that I've said that to you."
He appeared puzzled by this statement, but he
presently rejoined : " You haven't then said to
mamma what you think ? "
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 93
" Not yet ; remember that I only got here last
night." She appeared to herself ignobly weak.
" I had had no idea what she was doing. I was
taken completely by surprise. She managed it
" It's the sharpest thing I ever saw in my life ! "
They looked at each other with intelligence, in
appreciation of the sharpness, and Owen quickly
broke into a loud laugh. The laugh was in itself
natural, but the occasion of it strange ; and stranger
still to Fleda, so that she too almost laughed, the
inconsequent charity with which he added : " Poor
dear old Mummy ! That's one of the reasons I
asked for you," he went on " to see if you'd back
Whatever he said or did she somehow liked him
the better for it. " How can I back her up, Mr.
Gereth, when I think, as I tell you, that she has
made a great mistake ? "
" A great mistake ! That's all right." He spoke
it wasn't clear to her why as if this declaration
were a great point gained.
"Of course there are many things she hasn't
taken," Fleda continued.
" Oh yes, a lot of things. But you wouldn't
know the place, all the same." He looked about
the room with his discoloured, swindled face,
which deepened Fleda's compassion for him, con-
juring away any smile at so candid an image of
the dupe. " You'd know this one soon enough,
wouldn't fyou ? These are just the things she
94 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
ought to have left. Is the whole house full of
"The whole house," said Fleda uncompromis-
ingly. She thought of her lovely room.
" I . never knew how much I cared for them.
They're awfully valuable, aren't they ? " Owen's
manner mystified her ; she was conscious of a return
of the agitation he had produced in her on that
last bewildering day, and she reminded herself
that, now she was warned, it would be inexcusable
of her to allow him to justify the fear that had
dropped on her. " Mother thinks I never took
any notice, but I assure you I was awfully proud
of everything. Upon my honour I was proud, Miss
There was an oddity in his helplessness ; he
appeared to wish to persuade her and to satisfy
himself that she sincerely felt how worthy he really
was to treat what had happened as an injury.
She could only exclaim almost as helplessly as
himself: "Of course you did justice! It's all most
painful. I shall instantly let your mother know,"
she again declared, " the way I've spoken of her
to you." She clung to that idea as to the sign of
" You'll tell her what you think she ought to do ? "
he asked with some eagerness.
" What she ought to do ? "
" Dorit you think it I mean that she ought to
give them up ? "
" To give them up ? " Fleda hesitated again.
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 95
"To send them back to keep it quiet." The
girl had not felt the impulse to ask him to sit down
among the monuments of his wrong, so that,
nervously, awkwardly, he fidgeted about the room
with his hands in his pockets and an effect of
returning a little into possession through the for-
mulation of his view. " To have them packed and
despatched again, since she knows so well how.
She does it beautifully " he looked close at two or
three precious pieces. " What's sauce for the goose
is sauce for the gander ! "
He had laughed at his way of putting it, but
Fleda remained grave. "Is that what you came
to say to her ? "
"Not exactly those words. But I did come to
say " he stammered, then brought it out " I did
come to say we must have them right back."
" And did you think your mother would see you?"
" I wasn't sure, but I thought it right to try
to put it to her kindly, don't you see? If she
won't see me, then she has herself to thank. The
only other way would have been to set the lawyers
" I'm glad you didn't do that."
"I'm dashed if I want to!" Owen honestly
responded. " But what's a fellow to do if she
won't meet a fellow ? "
"What do you call meeting a fellow?" Fleda
asked with a smile.
" Why, letting me tell her a dozen things she can
96 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
This was a transaction that Fleda, after a
moment, had to give up trying to represent to
herself. "If she won't do that ? " she went on.
" I'll leave it all to my solicitor. He won't let
her off, by Jove. I know the fellow ! "
" That's horrible ! " said Fleda, looking at him
" It's utterly beastly."
His want of logic as well as his vehemence
startled her ; and with her eyes still on his she
considered before asking him the question these
things suggested. At last she asked it. " Is Mona
very angry ? "
" Oh dear, yes ! " said Owen.
She had perceived that he wouldn't speak of
Mona without her beginning. After waiting fruit-
lessly now for him to say more she continued :
"She has been there again? She has seen the
state of the house ? "
" Oh dear, yes ! " Owen repeated.
Fleda disliked to appear not to take account of
his brevity, but it was just because she was struck
by it that she felt the pressure of the desire to know
more. What it suggested was simply what her
intelligence supplied, for he was incapable of any
art of insinuation. Wasn't it at all events the rule
of communication with him to say for him what he
couldn't say ? This truth was present to the girl
as she inquired if Mona greatly resented what Mrs.
Gereth had done. He satisfied her promptly ; he
was standing before the fire, his back to it, hl long
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 97
legs apart, his hands, behind him, rather violently
jiggling his gloves. " She hates it awfully. In
fact she refuses to put up with it at all. Don't you
see ? she saw the place with all the things."
" So that of course she misses them."
" Misses them rather ! She was awfully sweet
on them." Fleda remembered how sweet Mona
had been, and reflected that if that was the sort of
plea he had prepared it was indeed as well he
shouldn't see his mother. This was not all she
wanted to know, but it came over her that it was
all she needed. " You see it puts me in the position
of not carrying out what I promised," Owen said.
" As she says herself" he hesitated an instant
"it's just as if I had obtained her under false
pretences." Just before, when he spoke with more
drollery than he knew, it had left Fleda serious ;
but now his own clear gravity had the effect of
exciting her mirth. She laughed out, and he looked
surprised, but went on : " She regards it as a regular
Fleda was silent ; but finally, as he added
nothing, she exclaimed : " Of course it makes a
great difference ! " She knew all she needed, but
none the less she risked after another pause an
interrogative remark. " I forget when it is that
your marriage takes place ? "
Owen came away from the fire and, apparently
at a loss where to turn, ended by directing himself
to one of the windows. " It's a little uncertain.
The date isn't quite fixed."
98 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" Oh, I thought I remembered that at Poynton
you had told me a day, and that it was near at
"I dare say I did; it was for the ipth. But
we've altered that she wants to shift it." He
looked out of the window ; then he said : " In fact
it won't come off till Mummy has come round."
" Come round ? "
" Put the place as it was." In his off-hand way
he added : " You know what I mean ! "
He spoke not impatiently, but with a kind of
intimate familiarity, the sweetness of which made
her feel a pang for having forced him to tell her
what was embarrassing to him, what was even
humiliating. Yes indeed, she knew all she needed :
all she needed was that Mona had proved apt at
putting down that wonderful patent-leather foot.
Her type was misleading only to the superficial,
and no one in the world was less superficial than
Fleda. She had guessed the truth at Waterbath
and she had suffered from it at Poynton ; at Ricks
the only thing she could do was to accept it with
the dumb exaltation that she felt rising. Mona
had been prompt with her exercise of the member
in question, for it might be called prompt to do that
sort of thing before marriage. That she had
indeed been premature who should say save those
who should have read the matter in the full light
of results? Neither at Waterbath nor Poynton
had even Fleda's thoroughness discovered all that
there was or rather all that there was not in
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 99
Owen Gereth. "Of course it makes all the dif-
ference ! " she said in answer to his last words.
She pursued, after considering : " What you wish
me to say from you then to your mother is that
you demand immediate and practically complete
restitution ? "
" Yes, please. It's tremendously good of you."
" Very well, then. Will you wait ? "
" For Mummy's answer ? " Owen stared and
looked perplexed ; he was more and more fevered
with so much vivid expression of his case. " Don't
you think that if I'm here she may hate it worse
think I may want to make her reply bang off? "
Fleda thought. " You don't, then ? "
" I want to take her in the right way, don't you
know ? treat her as if I gave her more than just
an hour or two."
" I see," said Fleda. " Then if you don't wait-
This again seemed not what he wanted. " Must
you do it bang off?"
" I'm only thinking she'll be impatient I mean,
you know, to learn what will have passed between
" I see," said Owen, looking at his gloves, " I
can give her a day or two, you know. Of course
I didn't come down to sleep," he went on. " The
inn seems a horrible hole. I know all about the
trains having no idea you were here." Almost
as soon as his interlocutress he was struck with
the absence of the visible, in this, as between
ioo THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
effect and cause. " I mean because in that case
I should have felt I could stop over. I should
have felt I could talk with you a blessed sight
longer than with Mummy."
"We've already talked a long time," smiled
"Awfully, haven't we?" He spoke with the
stupidity she didn't object to. Inarticulate as
he was he had more to say ; he lingered per-
haps because he was vaguely aware of the want
of sincerity in her encouragement to hjm to go.
" There's one thing, please," he mentioned, as if
there might be a great many others too. " Please
don't say anything about Mona."
She didn't understand. " About Mona ? "
" About it being her that thinks she has gone
too far." This was still slightly obscure, but now
Fleda understood. "It mustn't seem to come
from her at all, don't you know? That would
only make Mummy worse."
Fleda knew exactly how much worse, but she
felt a delicacy about explicitly assenting : she was
already immersed moreover in the deep consider-
ation of what might make " Mummy " better.
She couldn't see as yet at all ; she could only
clutch at the hope of some inspiration after he
should go. Oh, there was a remedy, to be sure,
but it was out of the question ; in spite of which,
in the strong light of Owen's troubled presence,
of his anxious face and restless step, it hung
there before her for some minutes. She felt
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 101
that, remarkably, beneath the decent rigour of his
errand, the poor young man, for reasons, for
weariness, for disgust, would have been ready not
to insist. His fitness to fight his mother had left
him he wasn't in fighting trim. He had no
natural avidity and even no special wrath ; he had
none that had not been taught him, and it was
doing his best to learn the lesson that had made
him so sick. He had his delicacies, but he hid
them away like presents before Christmas. He
was hollow, perfunctory, pathetic ; he had been
girded by another hand. That hand had naturally
been Mona's, and it was heavy even now on his
strong, broad back. Why then had he originally
rejoiced so in its touch ? Fleda dashed aside
this question, for it had nothing to do with her
problem. Her problem was to help him to live
as a gentleman and carry through what he had
undertaken ; her problem was to reinstate him in
his rights. It was quite irrelevant that Mona had
no intelligence of what she had lost quite
irrelevant that she was moved not by the priva-
tion but by the insult. She had every reason to
be moved, though she was so much more movable,
in the vindictive way at any rate, than one might
have supposed assuredly more than Owen him-
self had imagined.
"Certainly I shall not mention Mona," Fleda
said, "and there won't be the slightest necessity
for it. The wrong's quite sufficiently yours, and
the demand you make is perfectly justified by it."
102 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" I can't tell you what it is to me to feel you
on my side ! " Owen exclaimed.
" Up to this time," said Fleda after a pause, " your
mother has had no doubt of my being on hers."
" Then of course she won't like your changing."
" I dare say she won't like it at all."
"Do you mean to say you'll have a regular
kick-up with her ? "
" I don't exactly know what you mean by a
regular kick-up. We shall naturally have a great
deal of discussion if she consents to discuss
the matter at all. That's why you must decidedly
give her two or three days."
" I see you think she may refuse to discuss it
at all," said Owen.
" I'm only trying to be prepared for the worst.
You must remember that to have to withdraw
from the ground she has taken, to make a public
surrender of what she had publicly appropriated,
will go uncommonly hard with her pride."
Owen considered ; his face seemed to broaden,
but not into a smile. "I suppose she's tremen-
dously proud, isn't she ? " This might have been
the first time it had occurred to him.
" You know better than I," said Fleda, speaking
with high extravagance.
" I don't know anything in the world half so
well as you. If I were as clever as you I might
hope to get round her." Owen hesitated ; then
he went on : " In fact I don't quite see what even
you can say or do that will really fetch her."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 103
" Neither do I, as yet. I must think I must
pray ! " the girl pursued, smiling. " I can only
say to you that I'll try. I want to try, you know
I want to help you." He stood looking at her
so long on this that she added with much dis-
tinctness : " So you must leave me, please, quite
alone with her. You must go straight back."
" Back to the inn ? "
" Oh, no, back to town. I'll write to you to-
He turned about vaguely for his hat. " There's
the chance, of course, that she may be afraid."
" Afraid, you mean, of the legal steps you may
" I've got a perfect case I could have her up.
The Brigstocks say it's simply stealing."
" I can easily fancy what the Brigstocks say ! "
Fleda permitted herself to remark without solem-
" It's none of their business, is it ? " was Owen's
unexpected rejoinder. Fleda had already noted
that no one so slow could ever have had such
She showed her amusement. " They've a much
better right to say it's none of mine."
" Well, at any rate you don't call her names."
Fleda wondered whether Mona did ; and this
made it all the finer of her to exclaim in a
moment : " You don't know what I shall call her
if she holds out ! "
Owen gave her a gloomy glance ; then he blew
104 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
a speck off the crown of his hat. " But if you do
have a set-to with her ? "
He paused so long for a reply that Fleda said
" I don't think I know what you mean by a set-to.
" Well, if she calls you names."
" I don't think she'll do that."
" What I mean to say is, if she's angry at your
backing me up what will you do then? She
can't possibly like it, you know."
" She may very well not like it ; but everything
depends. I must see what I shall do. You
mustn't worry about me."
She spoke with decision, but Owen seemed still
unsatisfied. " You won't go away, I hope ? "
" If she does take it ill of you."
Fleda moved to the door and opened it. " I'm
not prepared to say. You must have patience
" Of course I must," said Owen " of course, of
course." But he took no more advantage of the
open door than to say : " You want me to be off,
and I'm off in a minute. Only, before I go, please
answer me a question. If you should leave my
mother, where would you go ? "
Fleda smiled again. " I haven't the least idea."
" I suppose you'd go back to London."
" I haven't the least idea," Fleda repeated.
"You don't a live anywhere in particular,
do you?" the young man went on. He looked
conscious as soon as he had spoken ; she could
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 105
see that he felt himself to have alluded more
grossly than he meant to the circumstance of her
having, if one were plain about it, no home of her
own. He had meant it as an allusion of a tender
sort to all that she would sacrifice in the case of
a quarrel with his mother ; but there was indeed
no graceful way of touching on that. One just
couldn't be plain about it.
Fleda, wound up as she was, shrank from any
treatment at all of the matter, and she made no
answer to his question. " I won't leave your
mother," she said. " I'll produce an effect on her ;
I'll convince her absolutely."
" I believe you will, if you look at her like
that ! "
She was wound up to such a height that there
might well be a light in her pale, fine little face
a light that, while for all return at first she simply
shone back at him, was intensely reflected in his
own. " I'll make her see it ; I'll make her see it ! "
she rang out like a silver bell. She had at that
moment a perfect faith that she should succeed ;
but it passed into something else when, the next
instant, she became aware that Owen, quickly
getting between her and the door she had opened,
was sharply closing it, as might be said, in her
face. He had done this before she could stop him,
and he stood there with his hand on the knob and
smiled at her strangely. Clearer than he could
have spoken it was the sense of those seconds of
io6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" When I got into this I didn't know you, and
now that I know you how can I tell you the differ-
ence ? And she's so different, so ugly and vulgar,
in the light of this squabble. No, like you I've
never known one. It's another thing, it's a new
thing altogether. Listen to me a little : can't
something be done?" It was what had been in
the air in those moments at Kensington, and it
only wanted words to be a committed act. The
more reason, to the girl's excited mind, why it
shouldn't have words ; her one thought was not to
hear, to keep the act uncommitted. She would do
this if she had to be horrid.
" Please let me out, Mr. Gereth," she said ; on
which he opened the door with a hesitation so
very brief that in thinking of these things after-
wards for she was to think of them for ever she
wondered in what tone she could have spoken.
They went into the hall, where she encountered
the parlour-maid, of whom she inquired whether
Mrs. Gereth had come in.
" No, miss ; and I think she has left the garden.
She has gone up the back road." In other words
they had the whole place to themselves. It would
have been a pleasure, in a different mood, to
converse with that parlour-maid.
" Please open the house-door," said Fleda.
Owen, as if in quest of his umbrella, looked
vaguely about the hall looked even wistfully up
the staircase while the neat young woman com-
plied with Fleda's request. Owen's eyes then
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 107
wandered out of the open door. " I think it's
awfully nice here," he observed. " I assure you I
could do with it myself."
" I should think you might, with half your
things here ! It's Poynton itself almost. Good-
bye, Mr. Gereth," Fleda added. Her intention
had naturally been that the neat young woman,
opening the front door, should remain to close it
on the departing guest. That functionary, how-
ever, had acutely vanished behind a stiff flap of
green baize which Mrs. Gereth had not yet had
time to abolish. Fleda put out her hand, but
Owen turned away he couldn't find his umbrella.
She passed into the open air she was determined
to get him out ; and in a moment he joined her
in the little plastered portico which had small
resemblance to any feature of Poynton. It was,
as Mrs. Gereth had said, like the portico of a house
" Oh, I don't mean with all the things here," he
explained in regard to the opinion he had just
expressed. " I mean I could put up with it just
as it was ; it had a lot of good things, don't you
think ? I mean if everything was back at Poynton,
if everything was all right." He brought out these
last words with a sort of smothered sigh. Fleda
didn't understand his explanation unless it had
reference to another and more wonderful exchange
the restoration to the great house not only of
its tables and chairs but of its alienated mistress.
This would imply the installation of his own life
io8 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
at Ricks, and obviously that of another person.
Such another person could scarcely be Mona
Brigstock. He put out his hand now ; and once
more she heard his unsounded words. "With
everything patched up at the other place, I could
live here with you. Don't you see what I mean?"
Fleda saw perfectly and, with a face in which
she flattered herself that nothing of this vision
appeared, gave him her hand and said : " Good-
Owen held her hand very firmly and kept it
even after an effort made by her to recover it
an effort not repeated, as she felt it best not to
show she was flurried. That solution of her
living with him at Ricks disposed of him beauti-
fully and disposed not less so of herself; it dis-
posed admirably too of Mrs. Gereth. Fleda could
only vainly wonder how it provided for poor
Mona. While he looked at her, grasping her
hand, she felt that now indeed she was paying for
his mother's extravagance at Poynton the vivid-
ness of that lady's public plea that little Fleda
Vetch was the person to insure the general peace.
It was to that vividness poor Owen had come
back, and if Mrs. Gereth had had more discretion
little Fleda Vetch wouldn't have been in a predica-
ment. She saw that Owen had at this moment
his sharpest necessity of speech, and so long as
he didn't release her hand she could only submit
to him. Her defence would be perhaps to look
blank and hard ; so she looked as blank and as
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 109
hard as she could, with the reward of an immedi-
ate sense that this was not a bit what he wanted.
It even made him hang fire as if he were suddenly
ashamed of himself, were recalled to some idea of
duty and of honour. Yet he none the less brought
it out. " There's one thing I dare say I ought to
tell you, if you're going so kindly to act for me ;
though of course you'll see for yourself it's a thing
it won't do to tell her." What was it ? He made
her wait for it again, and while she waited, under
firm coercion, she had the extraordinary impression
that Owen's simplicity was in eclipse. His natural
honesty was like the scent of a flower, and she felt
at this moment as if her nose had been brushed
by the bloom without the odour. The allusion
was undoubtedly to his mother ; and was not what
he meant about the matter in question the opposite
of what he said that it just would do to tell her ?
It would have been the first time he had said the
opposite of what he meant, and there was certainly
a fascination in the phenomenon as well as a
challenge to suspense in the ambiguity. " It's just
that I understand from Mona, you know," he
stammered ; " it's just that she has made no bones
about bringing home to me " He tried to laugh,
and in the effort he faltered again.
" About bringing home to you ? " Fleda encour-
He was sensible of it, he achieved his perform-
ance. " Why, that if I don't get the things back
. every blessed one of them except a few she'll
no THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
pick out she won't have anything more to say
Fleda after an instant encouraged him again.
"To say to you?"
"Why, she simply won't marry me, don't you
Owen's legs, not to mention his voice, had
wavered while he spoke, and she felt his posses-
sion of her hand loosen so that she was free again.
Her stare of perception broke into a lively laugh.
" Oh, you're all right, for you will get them. You
will ; you're quite safe ; don't worry ! " She fell
back into the house with her hand on the door.
" Good-bye, good-bye." She repeated it several
times, laughing bravely, quite waving him away
and, as he didn't move and save that he was on
the other side of it, closing the door in his face
quite as he had closed that of the drawing-room
in hers. Never had a face, never at least had such
a handsome one, been so presented to that offence.
She even held the door a minute, lest he should
try to come in again. At last as she heard nothing
she made a dash for the stairs and ran up.
IN knowing a while before all she needed she
had been far from knowing as much as that ; so
that once up-stairs, where, in her room, with her
sense of danger and trouble, the age of Louis Seize
suddenly struck her as wanting in taste and point,
she felt that she now for the first time knew her
temptation. Owen had put it before her with an
art beyond his own dream. Mona would cast him
off if he didn't proceed to extremities ; if his negoti-
ation with his mother should fail he would be com-
pletely free. That negotiation depended on a
young lady to whom he had pressingly suggested
the condition of his freedom ; and as if to aggravate
the young lady's predicament, designing fate had
sent Mrs. Gereth, as the parlour-maid said, " up the
back road." This would give the young lady more
time to make up her mind that nothing should
come of the negotiation. There would be different
ways of putting the question to Mrs. Gereth, and
Fleda might profitably devote the moments before
her return to a selection of the way that would most
surely be tantamount to failure. > This selection
U2 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
indeed required no great adroitness ; it was so con-
spicuous that failure would be the reward of an
effective introduction of Mona. If that abhorred
name should be properly invoked Mrs. Gereth
would resist to the death, and before envenomed
resistance Owen would certainly retire. His retire-
ment would be into single life, and Fleda reflected
that he had now gone away conscious of having
practically told her so. She could only say as she
waited for the back road to disgorge that she hoped
it was a consciousness he enjoyed. There was
something she enjoyed ; but that was a very dif-
ferent matter. To know that she had become to
him an object of desire gave her wings that she
felt herself flutter in the air : it was like the rush
of a flood into her own accumulations. These
stored depths had been fathomless and still, but
now, for half-an-hour, in the empty house, they
spread till they overflowed. He seemed to have
made it right for her to confess to herself her
secret. Strange then there should be for him in
return nothing that such a confession could make
right! How could it make right that he should
give up Mona for another woman ? His attitude
was a sorry appeal to Fleda to legitimate that.
But he didn't believe it himself and he had none
of the courage of his perversity. She could easily
see how wrong everything must be when a man
so made to be manly was wanting in courage.
She had upset him, as people called it, and he had
spoken out from the force of the jar of finding her
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 113
there. He had upset her too, heaven knew, but
she was one of those who could pick themselves
up. She had the real advantage, she considered,
of having kept him from seeing that she had been
She had moreover at present completely re-
covered her feet, though there was in the intensity
of the effort required to do so a vibration which
throbbed away into an immense allowance for the
young man. How could she after all know what,
in the disturbance wrought by his mother, Mona's
relations with him might have become? If he had
been able to keep his wits, such as they were, more
about him he would probably have felt as sharply
as she felt on his behalf that so long as those
relations were not ended he had no right to say
even the little he had said. He had no right to
appear to wish to draw in another girl to help him
to run away. If he was in a plight he must get
out of the plight himself, he must get out of it
first, and anything he should have to say to any
one 'else must be deferred and detached. She
herself, at any rate it was her own case that was
in question couldn't dream of assisting him save
in the sense of their common honour. She could
never be the girl to be drawn in ; she could never
lift her finger against Mona. There was something
in her that would make it a shame to her forever
to have owed her happiness to an interference.
It would seem intolerably vulgar to her to have
"ousted" the daughter of the Brigstocks ; and
ii4 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
merely to have abstained even wouldn't assure
her that she had been straight. Nothing was
really straight but to justify her little pensioned
presence by her use ; and now, won over as she
was to heroism, she could see her use only as some
high and delicate deed. She couldn't, in short, do
anything at all unless she could do it with a kind
of pride, and there would be nothing to be proud
of in having arranged for poor Owen to get off
easily. Nobody had a right to get off easily from
pledges so deep and sacred. How could Fleda
doubt they had been tremendous when she knew
so well what any pledge of her own would be? If
Mona was so formed that she could hold such vows
light, that was Mona's peculiar business. To have
loved Owen apparently, and yet to have loved him
only so much, only to the extent of a few tables
and chairs, was not a thing she could so much as
try to grasp. Of a different manner of loving she
was herself ready to give an instance, an instance
of which the beauty indeed would not be generally
known. It would not perhaps if revealed be gener-
ally understood, inasmuch as the effect of the
particular pressure she proposed to exercise would
be, should success attend it, to keep him tied to
an affection that had died a sudden and violent
death. Even in the ardour of her meditation
Fleda remained in sight of the truth that it would
be an odd result of her magnanimity to prevent
her friend's shaking off a woman he disliked. If
he didn't dislike Mona what was the matter with
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 115
him ? And if he did, Fleda asked, what was the
matter with her own silly self?
Our young lady met this branch of the tempta-
tion it pleased her frankly to recognise by declaring
that to encourage any such cruelty would be
tortuous and base. She had nothing to do with
his dislikes ; she had only to do with his good-
nature and his good name. She had joy of him
just as he was, but it was of these things she had
the greatest. The worst aversion and the liveliest
reaction moreover wouldn't alter the fact since
one was facing facts that but the other day his
strong arms must have clasped a remarkably hand-
some girl as close as she had permitted. Fleda's
emotion at this time was a wondrous mixture,
in which Mona's permissions and Mona's beauty
figured powerfully as aids to reflection. She her-
self had no beauty, and her permissions were the
stony stares she had just practised in the drawing-
room a consciousness of a kind appreciably to
add to the particular sense of triumph that made
her generous. I may not perhaps too much
diminish the merit of that generosity if I mention
that it could take the flight we are considering just
because really, with the telescope of her long
thought, Fleda saw what might bring her out of
the wood. Mona herself would bring her out ; at
the least Mona possibly might. Deep down
plunged the idea that even should she achieve
what she had promised Owen there was still the
contingency of Mona's independent action. She
ii6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
might by that time, under stress of temper or of
whatever it was that was now moving her, have
said or done the things there is no patching up.
If the rupture should come from Waterbath they
might all be happy yet. This was a calculation
that Fleda wouldn't have committed to paper, but
it affected the total of her sentiments. She was
meanwhile so remarkably constituted that while
she refused to profit by Owen's mistake, even while
she judged it and hastened to cover it up, she could
drink a sweetness from it that consorted little with
her wishing it mightn't have been made. There
was no harm done, because he had instinctively
known, poor dear, with whom to make it, and it
was a compensation for seeing him worried that he
hadn't made it with some horrid mean girl who
would immediately have dished him by making a
still bigger one. Their protected error (for she
indulged a fancy that it was hers too) was like
some dangerous, lovely, living thing that she had
caught and could keep keep vivid and helpless
in the cage of her own passion and look at and
talk to all day long. She had got it well locked
up there by the time that from an upper window
she saw Mrs. Gereth again in the garden. At this
she went down to meet her.
FLEDA'S line had been taken, her word was
quite ready: on the terrace of the painted pots
she broke out before her interlocutress could put
a question. "His errand was perfectly simple:
he came to demand that you shall pack every-
thing straight up again and send it back as fast
as the railway will carry it."
The back road had apparently been fatiguing to
Mrs. Gereth ; she rose there rather white and wan
with her walk. A certain sharp thinness was in
her ejaculation of " Oh ! " after which she glanced
about her for a place to sit down. The movement
was a criticism of the order of events that offered
such a piece of news to a lady coming in tired ;
but Fleda could see that in turning over the possi-
bilities this particular peril was the one that during
the last hour her friend had turned up oftenest.
At the end of the short, grey day, which had been
moist and mild, the sun was out; the terrace
looked to the south, and a bench, formed as to
legs and arms of iron representing knotted boughs,
stood against the warmest wall of the house. The
mistress of Ricks sank upon it and presented to
Ii8 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
her companion the handsome face she had com-
posed to hear everything. Strangely enough it
was just this fine vessel of her attention that made
the girl most nervous about what she must drop
in. "Quite a 'demand,' dear, is it?" asked Mrs.
Gereth, drawing in her cloak.
"Oh, that's what I should call it!" Fleda
laughed, to her own surprise.
" I mean with the threat of enforcement and
that sort of thing."
"Distinctly with the threat of enforcement
what would be called, I suppose, coercion."
" What sort of coercion ? " said Mrs. Gereth.
"Why, legal, don't you know? what he calls
setting the lawyers at you."
"Is that what he calls it?" She seemed to
speak with disinterested curiosity.
" That's what he calls it," said Fleda.
Mrs. Gereth considered an instant. " Oh, the
lawyers ! " she exclaimed lightly. Seated there
almost cosily in the reddening winter sunset, only
with her shoulders raised a little and her mantle
tightened as if from a slight chill, she had never
yet looked to Fleda so much in possession nor so
far from meeting unsuspectedness half-way. " Is
he going to send them down here?"
" I dare say he thinks it may come to that."
" The lawyers can scarcely do the packing," Mrs.
Gereth playfully remarked, j
" I suppose he means them in the first place at
least to try to talk you over."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 119
"In the first place, eh ? And what does he mean
in the second ? "
Fleda hesitated; she had not foreseen that so
simple an inquiry could disconcert her. " I'm
afraid I don't know."
" Didn't you ask ? " Mrs. Gereth spoke as if she
might have said : " What then were you doing all
the while ? "
" I didn't ask very much," said her companion.
" He has been gone some time. The great thing
seemed to be to understand clearly that he
wouldn't be content with anything less than what
" My just giving everything back ? "
" Your just giving everything back."
" Well, darling, what did you tell him ? " Mrs.
Gereth blandly inquired.
Fleda faltered again, wincing at the term of
endearment, at what the words took for granted,
charged with the confidence she had now com-
mitted herself to betray. " I told him I would tell
you ! " She smiled, but she felt that her smile
was rather hollow and even that Mrs. Gereth had
begun to look at her with some fixedness.
" Did he seem very angry ? "
" He seemed very sad. He takes it very hard,"
" And how does she take it ? "
" Ah, that that I felt a delicacy about asking."
" So you didn't ask ? " The words had the note
120 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Fleda was embarrassed ; she had not made up
her mind definitely to lie. " I didn't think you'd
care." That small untruth she would risk.
"Well I don't!" Mrs. Gereth declared; and
Fleda felt less guilty to hear her, for the statement
was as inexact as her own. " Didn't you say any-
thing in return ? " Mrs. Gereth presently continued.
" Do you mean in the way of justifying you ? "
" I didn't mean to trouble you to do that. My
justification," said Mrs. Gereth, sitting there warmly
and, in the lucidity of her thought, which neverthe-
less hung back a little, dropping her eyes on the
gravel "my justification was all the past. My
justification was the cruelty ! " But at this, with
a short, sharp gesture, she checked herself. " It's
too good of me to talk now." She produced
these sentences with a cold patience, as if address-
ing Fleda in the girl's virtual and actual character
of Owen's representative. Our young lady crept
to and fro before the bench, combating the sense
that it was occupied by a judge, looking at her
boot-toes, reminding herself in doing so of Mona,
and lightly crunching the pebbles as she walked.
She moved about because she was afraid, putting
off from moment to moment the exercise of the
courage she had been sure she possessed. That
courage would all come to her if she could only be
equally sure that what she should be called upon
to do for Owen would be to suffer. She had
wondered, while Mrs. Gereth spoke, how that lady
would describe her justification. She had described
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 121
it as if to be irreproachably fair, give her adversary
the benefit of every doubt and then dismiss the
question for ever. " Of course," Mrs. Gereth went
on, " if we didn't succeed in showing him at Poyn-
ton the ground we took, it's simply that he shuts
his eyes. What I supposed was that you would
have given him your opinion that if I was the
woman so signally to assert myself I'm also the
woman to rest upon it imperturbably enough."
Fleda stopped in front of her hostess. " I gave
him my opinion that you're very logical, very
obstinate and very proud."
" Quite right, my dear : I'm a rank bigot
about that sort of thing ! " and Mrs. Gereth jerked
her head at the contents of the house. "I've
never denied it. I'd kidnap to save them, to
convert them the children of heretics. When I
know I'm right I go to the stake. Oh, he may
burn me alive ! " she cried with a happy face.
" Did he abuse me ? " she then demanded.
Fleda had remained there, gathering in her pur-
pose. " How little you know him ! "
Mrs. Gereth stared, then broke into a laugh that
her companion had not expected. " Ah, my dear,
certainly not so well as you ! " The girl, at this,
turned away again she felt she looked too con-
scious ; and she was aware that during a pause
Mrs. Gereth's eyes watched her as she went. She
faced about afresh to meet them, but what she met
was a question that reinforced them. " Why had
you a ' delicacy ' as to speaking of Mona ? "
122 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
She stopped again before the bench, and an
inspiration came to her. " I should think you
would know," she said with proper dignity.
Blankness was for a moment on Mrs. Gereth's
brow ; then light broke she visibly remembered
the scene in the breakfast-room after Mona's night
at Poynton. " Because I contrasted you told him
you were the one ? " Her eyes looked deep. " You
were you are still ! "
Fleda gave a bold dramatic laugh. "Thank
you, my love with all the best things at Ricks ! "
Mrs. Gereth considered, trying to penetrate, as
it seemed ; but at last she brought out roundly :
" For you, you know, I'd send them back ! "
The girl's heart gave a tremendous bound ; the
right way dawned upon her in a flash. Obscurity
indeed the next moment engulfed this course, but
for a few thrilled seconds she had understood. To
send the things back "for her" meant of course
to send them back if there were even a dim chance
that she might become mistress of them. Fleda's
palpitation was not allayed as she asked herself
what portent Mrs. Gereth had suddenly perceived
of such a chance : that perception could come only
from a sudden suspicion of her secret. This sus-
picion in turn was a tolerably straight consequence
of that implied view of the propriety of surrender
from which, she was well aware, she could say
nothing to dissociate herself. What she first felt
was that if she wished to rescue the spoils she
wished also to rescue her secret. So she looked as
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 123
innocent as she could and said as quickly as
possible : " For me ? Why in the world for
" Because you're so awfully keen."
" Am I ? Do I strike you so ? You know I
hate him," Fleda went on.
She had the sense for a while of Mrs. Gereth's
regarding her with the detachment of some stern,
clever stranger. "Then what's the matter with
you ? Why do you want me to give in ? "
Fleda hesitated ; she felt herself reddening.
" I've only said your son wants it. I haven't said
" Then say it and have done with it ! "
This was more peremptory than any word her
friend, though often speaking in her presence with
much point, had ever yet deliberately addressed her.
It affected her like the crack of a whip, but she
confined herself with an effort to taking it as a
reminder that she must keep her head. "I know
he has his engagement to carry out."
" His engagement to marry ? Why, it's just
that engagement we loathe ! "
" Why should / loathe it ? " Fleda asked with a
strained smile. Then before Mrs. Gereth could
reply she pursued : " I'm thinking of his general
undertaking to give her the house as she origin-
ally saw it."
" To give her the house ! " Mrs. Gereth brought
up the words from the depth of the unspeakable.
The effect was like the moan of an autumn wind ;
124 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
it was in the power of such an image to make her
"I'm thinking," Fleda continued, "of the simple
question of his keeping faith on an important
clause of his contract : it doesn't matter whether
it's with a stupid person or with a monster of
cleverness. I'm thinking of his honour and his
"The honour and good name of a man you
"Certainly," the girl resolutely answered. "I
don't see why you should talk as if one had a
petty mind. You don't think so. It's not on that
assumption you've ever dealt with me. I can do
your son justice, as he put his case to me."
" Ah, then he did put his case to you ! " Mrs.
Gereth exclaimed with an accent of triumph.
"You seemed to speak just now as if really
nothing of any consequence had passed between
" Something always passes when one has a little
imagination," our young lady declared.
" I take it you don't mean that Owen has any ! "
Mrs. Gereth cried with her large laugh.
Fleda was silent a moment. " No, I don't mean
that Owen has any," she returned at last.
" Why is it you hate him so ? " her hostess
abruptly put to her.
"Should I love him for all he has made you
Mrs. Gereth slowly rose at this and, coming
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 125
over the walk, took her young friend to her breast
and kissed her. She then passed into one of
Fleda's an arm perversely and imperiously soci-
able. " Let us move a little," she said, holding her
close and giving a slight shiver. They strolled
along the terrace and she brought out another
question. " He was eloquent, then, poor dear
he poured forth the story of his wrongs ? "
Fleda smiled down at her companion, who,
cloaked and perceptibly bowed, leaned on her
heavily and gave her an odd, unwonted sense of
age and cunning. She took refuge in an evasion.
" He couldn't tell me anything that I didn't know
pretty well already."
" It's very true that you know everything. No,
dear, you haven't a petty mind ; you've a lovely
imagination and you're the nicest creature in the
world. If you were inane, like most girls like
every one in fact I would have insulted you, I
would have outraged you, and then you would
have fled from me in terror. No, now that I think
of it," Mrs. Gereth went on, "you wouldn't have
fled from me : nothing, on the contrary, would
have made you budge. You would have cuddled
into your warm corner, but you would have been
wounded and weeping and martyrised, and you
would have taken every opportunity to tell people
I'm a brute as indeed I should have been ! "
They went to and fro, and she would not allow
Fleda, who laughed and protested, to attenuate
with any light civiltiy this spirited picture. She
126 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
praised her cleverness and her patience ; then she
said it was getting cold and dark and they must go
in to tea. She delayed quitting the place, how-
ever, and reverted instead to Owen's ultimatum,
about which she asked another question or two;
in particular whether it had struck Fleda that he
really believed she would comply with such a
"I think he really believes that if I try hard
enough I can make you : " after uttering which
words our young lady stopped short and emulated
the embrace she had received a few moments
" And you've promised to try : I see. You
didn't tell me that either," Mrs. Gereth added as
they moved. " But you're rascal enough for any-
thing ! " While Fleda was occupied in thinking in
what terms she could explain why she had indeed
been rascal enough for the reticence thus de-
nounced, her companion broke out with an inquiry
somewhat irrelevant and even in form somewhat
profane. "Why the devil, at any rate, doesn't it
Fleda hesitated. " You mean their marriage ? "
" Of course I mean their marriage ! "
Fleda hesitated again. " I haven't the least
"You didn't ask him?"
" Oh, how in the world can you fancy ? " She
spoke in a shocked tone.
"Fancy your putting a question so indelicate?
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 127
7 should have put it I mean in your place ; but
I'm quite coarse, thank God ! " Fleda felt privately
that she herself was coarse, or at any rate would
presently have to be ; and Mrs. Gereth, with a
purpose that struck her as increasing, continued :
" What, then, was the day to be ? Wasn't it just
one of these ? "
" I'm sure I don't remember."
It was part of the great rupture and an effect
of Mrs. Gereth's character that up to this moment
she had been completely and haughtily indifferent
to that detail. Now, however, she had a visible
reason for being sure. She bethought herself and
she broke out : " Isn't the day past ? " Then
stopping short she added : " Upon my word they
must have put it off!" As Fleda made no answer
to this she sharply pursued : " Have they put
" I haven't the least idea," said the girl.
Her hostess was again looking at her hard.
" Didn't he tell you didn't he say anything about
Fleda meanwhile had had time to make her
reflections, which were moreover the continued
throb of those that had occupied the interval
between Owen's departure and his mother's return.
If she should now repeat his words this wouldn't
at all play the game of her definite vow ; it would
only play the game of her little gagged and
blinded desire. She could calculate well enough
the result of telling Mrs. Gereth how she had had
128 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
it from Owen's troubled lips that Mona was only
waiting for the restitution and would do nothing
without it. The thing was to obtain the restitution
without imparting that knowledge. The only way
also not to impart it was not to tell any truth at
all about it ; and the only way to meet this last
condition was to reply to her companion, as she
presently did : " He told me nothing whatever.
He didn't touch on the subject."
" Not in any way ? "
" Not in any way."
Mrs. Gereth watched Fleda and considered.
" You haven't any idea if they are waiting for the
things ? "
" How should I have ? I'm not in their counsels."
" I dare say they are or that Mona is." Mrs.
Gereth reflected again ; she had a bright idea.
" If I don't give in I'll be hanged if she'll not
" She'll never, never break off," said Fleda.
" Are you sure ? "
" I can't be sure, but it's my belief."
"Derived from him?"
The girl hung fire a few seconds. "Derived
Mrs. Gereth gave her a long last look, then
turned abruptly away. " It's an awful bore you
didn't really get it out of him ! Well, come to
tea," she added rather dryly, passing straight into
THE sense of her dryness, which was ominous
of a complication, made Fleda, before complying,
linger a little on the terrace : she felt the need
moreover of taking breath after such a flight into
the cold air of denial. When at last she rejoined
Mrs. Gereth she found her erect before the drawing-
room fire. Their tea had been set out in the same
quarter, and the mistress of the house, for whom
the preparation of it was in general a high and
undelegated function, was in an attitude to which
the hissing urn made no appeal. This omission,
for Fleda, was such a further sign of something
to come that, to disguise her apprehension, she
immediately and without apology took the duty in
hand ; only however to be promptly reminded that
she was performing it confusedly and not counting
the journeys of the little silver shovel she emptied
into the pot. " Not jfe?, my dear the usual three,"
said her hostess with the same reserve ; watching
her then in silence while she clumsily corrected her
mistake. The tea took some minutes to draw, and
Mrs. Gereth availed herself of them suddenly to
130 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
exclaim : " You haven't yet told me, you know,
how it is you propose to ' make ' me ! "
" Give everything back ? " Fleda looked into
the pot again and uttered her question with a
briskness that she felt to be a trifle overdone.
" Why, by putting the question well before you ;
by being so eloquent that I shall persuade you,
shall act upon you ; by making you sorry for
having gone so far," she said boldly. " By simply
and earnestly asking it of you, in short ; and by
reminding you at the same time that it's the first
thing I ever have so asked. Oh, you've done
things for me endless and beautiful things," she
exclaimed ; " but you've done them all from your
own generous impulse. I've never so much as
hinted to you to lend me a postage-stamp."
" Give me a cup of tea," said Mrs. Gereth. A
moment later, taking the cup, she replied : " No,
you've never asked me for a postage-stamp."
" That gives me a pull ! " Fleda returned, with
" Puts you in the situation of expecting that I
shall do this thing just simply to oblige you ? "
The girl hesitated. " You said a while ago that
for me you would do it."
" For you, but not for your eloquence. Do you
understand what I mean by the difference ? " Mrs.
Gereth asked as she stood stirring her tea.
Fleda, to postpone answering, looked round,
while she drank it, at the beautiful room. " I don't
in the least like, you know, your having taken so
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 131
much. It was a great shock to me, on my arrival
here, to find you had done so."
" Give me some more tea," said Mrs. Gereth ;
and there was a moment's silence as Fleda poured
out another cup. "If you were shocked, my dear,
I'm bound to say you concealed your shock."
" I know I did. I was afraid to show it."
Mrs. Gereth drank off her second cup. " And
you're not afraid now ? "
" No, I'm not afraid now."
" What has made the difference ? "
" I've pulled myself together." Fleda paused ;
then she added : "And I've seen Mr. Owen." 4
"You've seen Mr. Owen" Mrs. Gereth con-
curred. She put down her cup and sank into a
chair, in which she leaned back, resting her head
and gazing at her young friend. " Yes, I did tell
you a while ago that for you I'd do it. But you
haven't told me yet what you'll do in return."
Fleda thought an instant. "Anything in the
wide world you may require."
" Oh, * anything ' is nothing at all ! That's too
easily said." Mrs. Gereth, reclining more com-
pletely, closed her eyes with an air of disgust, an
air indeed of inviting slumber.
Fleda looked at her quiet face, which the ap-
pearance of slumber always made particularly
handsome ; she noted how much the ordeal of the
last few weeks had added to its indications of age.
"Well then, try me with something. What is it
132 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
At this, opening her eyes, Mrs. Gereth sprang
straight up. " Get him away from her ! "
Fleda marvelled : her companion had in an
instant become young again. "Away from Mona?
How in the world ? "
" By not looking like a fool ! " cried Mrs. Gereth
very sharply. She kissed her, however, on the
spot, to make up for this roughness, and with an
officious hand took off the hat which, on coming
into the house, our young lady had not removed-
She applied a friendly touch to the girl's hair and
gave a business-like pull to her jacket. " I say
don't look like an idiot, because you happen not
to be one, not the least bit. Pm idiotic ; I've
been so, I've just discovered, ever since our first
days together. I've been a precious donkey ; but
that's another affair."
Fleda, as if she humbly assented, went through
no form of controverting this ; she simply stood
passive to her companion's sudden refreshment of
the charms of her person. " How can I get him
away from her? " she presently demanded.
" By letting yourself go."
" By letting myself go ? " She spoke mechani-
cally, still more like an idiot, and felt as if her face
flamed out the insincerity of her question. It was
vividly back again, the vision of the real way to
act on Mrs. Gereth. This lady's movements were
now rapid ; she turned off from her as quickly as
she had seized her, and Fleda sat down to steady
herself for full responsibility.
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 133
Her hostess, without taking up her ejaculation,
gave a violent poke at the fire and then faced her
again. "You've done two things, then, to-day
haven't you? that you've never done before.
One has been asking me the service or favour or
concession whatever you call it that you just
mentioned; the other has been telling me cer-
tainly too for the first time an immense little
" An immense little fib ? " Fleda felt weak ; she
was glad of the support of her seat.
" An immense big one then ! " said Mrs. Gereth
irritatedly. " You don't in the least * hate ' Owen,
my darling. You care for him very much. In
fact, my own, you're in love with him there !
Don't tell me any more lies ! " cried Mrs. Gereth
with a voice and a face in the presence of which
Fleda recognised that there was nothing for her
but to hold herself and take them. When once
the truth was out it was out, and she could see
more and more every instant that it would be the
only way. She accepted therefore what had to
come ; she leaned back her head and closed her
eyes as her companion had done just before. She
would have covered her face with her hands but
for the still greater shame. " Oh, you're a wonder,
a wonder," said Mrs. Gereth ; " you're magnificent,
and I was right, as soon as I saw you, to pick you
out and trust you ! " Fleda closed her eyes tighter
at this last word, but her friend kept it up. " I
never dreamed of it till a while ago, when, after he
134 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
had come and gone, we were face to face. Then
something stuck out of you ; it strongly impressed
me, and I didn't know at first quite what to make
of it. It was that you had just been with him and
that you were not natural. Not natural to me"
she added with a smile. " I pricked up my ears,
and all that this might mean dawned upon me
when you said you had asked nothing about Mona.
It put me on the scent, but I didn't show you, did
I ? I felt it was in you, deep down, and that I
must draw it out. Well, I have drawn it, and it's
a blessing. Yesterday, when you shed tears at
breakfast, I was awfully puzzled. What has been
the matter with you all the while ? Why, Fleda,
it isn't a crime, don't you know that?" cried the
delighted woman. "When I was a girl I was
always in love, and not always with such nice
people as Owen. I didn't behave as well as you ;
compared with you I think I must have been
odious. But if you're proud and reserved it's your
own affair ; I'm proud too, though I'm not reserved
that's what spoils it. I'm stupid, above all
that's what I am ; so dense that I really blush for
it. However, no one but you could have deceived
me. If I trusted you moreover, it was exactly to
be cleverer than myself. You must be so now
more than ever ! " Suddenly Fleda felt her hands
grasped : Mrs. Gereth had plumped down at her
feet and was leaning on her knees. " Save him
save him : you can ! " she passionately pleaded.
" How could you not like him when he's such a
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 135
dear ? He is a dear, darling ; there's no harm in
my own boy ! You can do what you will with him
you know you can ! What else does he give us
all this time for ? Get him away from her : it's as
if he besought you to, poor wretch ! Don't abandon
him to such a fate, and I'll never abandon you.
Think of him with that creature, that future ! If
you'll take him I'll give up everything. There, it's
a solemn promise, the most sacred of my life. Get
the better of her and he shall have every stick I
removed. Give me your word and I'll accept it.
I'll write for the packers to-night ! "
Fleda, before this, had fallen forward on her
companion's neck, and the two women, clinging
together, had got up while the younger wailed on
the other's bosom. " You smooth it down because
you see more in it than there can ever be ; but
after my hideous double game how will you be
able to believe in me again?"
" I see in it simply what must be, if you've a
single spark of pity. Where on earth was the
double game, when you've behaved like such a
saint ? You've been beautiful, you've been ex-
quisite, and all our trouble is over."
Fleda, drying her eyes, shook her head ever so
sadly. " No, Mrs. Gereth, it isn't over. I can't do
what you ask I can't meet your condition."
Mrs. Gereth stared ; the cloud gathered in her
face again. " Why, in the name of goodness, when
you adore him ? I know what you see in him," she
declared in another tone. " You'r-e quite right ! "
136 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Fleda gave a faint, stubborn smile. " He cares
for her too much."
" Then why doesn't he marry her ? He's giving
you an extraordinary chance."
" He doesn't dream I've ever thought of him,"
said Fleda. " Why should he, if you didn't ? "
" It wasn't with me you were in love, my duck."
Then Mrs. Gereth added : " I'll go and tell him."
"If you do any such thing you shall never see
me again absolutely, literally never ! "
Mrs. Gereth looked hard at her young friend,
betraying that she saw she must believe her.
" Then you're perverse, you're wicked. Will you
swear he doesn't know ? "
"Of course he doesn't know!" cried Fleda
Her interlocutress was silent a little. " And
that he has no feeling on his side ? "
" For me ? " Fleda stared. " Before he has even
married her ? "
Mrs. Gereth gave a sharp laugh at this. " He
ought at least to appreciate your wit. Oh, my
dear, you are a treasure ! Doesn't he appreciate
anything? Has he given you absolutely no
symptom not looked a look, not breathed a
sigh ? "
" The case," said Fleda coldly, " is as I've had
the honour to state it."
" Then he's as big a donkey as his mother ! But
you know you must account for their delay," Mrs.
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 137
" Why must I ? " Fleda asked after a moment.
" Because you were closeted with him here so
long. You can't pretend at present, you know,
not to have any art."
The girl hesitated an instant ; she was conscious
that she must choose between two risks. She had
had a secret and the secret was gone. Owen had
one, which was still unbruised, and the greater risk
now was that his mother should lay her formidable
hand upon it. All Fleda's tenderness for him
moved her to protect it ; so she faced the smaller
peril. " Their delay," she brought herself to reply,
" may perhaps be Mona's doing. I mean because
he has lost her the things."
Mrs. Gereth jumped at this. " So that she'll
break altogether if I keep them ? "
Fleda winced. " I've told you what I believe
about that. She'll make scenes and conditions ;
she'll worry him. But she'll hold him fast ; she'll
never give him up."
Mrs. Gereth turned it over. "Well, I'll keep
them to try her," she finally pronounced ; at which
Fleda felt quite sick, as if to have given everything
and got nothing.
" I MUST in common decency let him know that
I've talked of the matter with you," she said to her.
hostess that evening. " What answer do you wish
me to write to him ? "
"Write to him that you must see him again,"
said Mrs. Gereth.
Fleda looked very blank. " What on earth am
I to see him for ? "
" For anything you like ! "
The girl would have been struck with the levity
of this had she not already, in an hour, felt the
extent of the change suddenly wrought in her
commerce with her friend wrought above all, to
that friend's view, in her relation to the great issue.
The effect of what had followed Owen's visit was
to make this relation the very key of the crisis.
Pressed upon her, goodness knew, the crisis had
been, but it now seemed to put forth big encircling
arms arms that squeezed till they hurt and she
must cry out. It was as if everything at Ricks had
been poured into a common receptacle, a public
ferment of emotion and zeal, out of which it was
ladled up to be tasted and talked about ; everything
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 139
at least but the one little treasure of knowledge
that she kept back. She ought to have liked this,
she reflected, because it meant sympathy, meant a
closer union with the source of so much in her life
that had been beautiful and renovating ; but there
were fine instincts in her that stood off. She had
had and it was not merely at this time to recog-
nise that there were things for which Mrs. Gereth s
flair was not so happy as for bargains and " marks."
It wouldn't be happy now as to the best action on
the knowledge she had just gained ; yet as from
this moment they were still more intimately to-
gether, so a person deeply in her debt would simply
have to stand and meet what was to come. There
were ways in which she could sharply incommode
such a person, and not only with the best conscience
in the world, but with a sort of brutality of good
intentions. One of the straightest of these strokes,
Fleda saw, would be the dance of delight over the
mystery Mrs. Gereth had laid bare the loud, law-
ful, tactless joy of the explorer leaping upon the
strand. Like any other lucky discoverer she would
take possession of the fortunate island. She was
nothing if not practical : almost the only thing she
took account of in her young friend's soft secret
was the excellent use she could make of it a use
so much to her taste that she refused to feel a
hindrance in the quality of the material. Fleda
put into Mrs. Gereth's answer to her question a
good deal more meaning than it would have
occurred to her a few hours before that she was
140 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
prepared to put, but she had on the spot a fore-
boding that even so broad a hint would live to be
" Do you suggest that I shall propose to him to
come down here again ? " she presently inquired.
" Dear, no ; say that you'll go up to town and
meet him." It was bettered, the broad hint ; and
Fleda felt this to be still more the case when,
returning to the subject before they went to bed,
her companion said : " I make him over to you
wholly, you know to do what you please with.
Deal with him in your own clever way I ask no
questions. All I ask is that you succeed."
" That's charming," Fleda replied, " but it doesn't
tell me a bit, you'll be so good as to consider, in
what terms to write to him. It's not an answer
from you to the message I was to give you."
" The answer to his message is perfectly distinct :
he shall have everything in the place the minute
he'll say he'll marry you."
" You really pretend," Fleda asked, " to think me
capable of transmitting him that news ? "
"What else can I really pretend, when you
threaten so to cast me off if I speak the word
" Oh, if you speak the word ! " the girl murmured
very gravely, but happy at least to know that in
this direction Mrs. Gereth confessed herself warned
and helpless. Then she added : " How can I go
on living with you on a footing of which I so
deeply disapprove ? Thinking as I do that you've
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 141
despoiled him far more than is just or merciful
for if I expected you to take something I didn't in
the least expect you to take everything how can
I stay here without a sense that I am backing you
up in your cruelty and participating in your ill-
gotten gains ? " Fleda was determined that if she
had the chill of her exposed and investigated state
she would also have the convenience of it, and that
if Mrs. Gereth popped in and out of the chamber
of her soul she would at least return the freedom.
" I shall quite hate, you know, in a day or two,
every object that surrounds you become blind to
all the beauty and rarity that I formerly delighted
in. Don't think me harsh ; there's no use in my
not being frank now. If I leave you, everything's
at an end."
Mrs. Gereth, however, was imperturbable : Fleda
had to recognise that her advantage had become
too real. " It's too beautiful, the way you care for
him ; it's music in my ears. Nothing else but
such a passion could make you say such things ;
that's the way I should have been too, my dear.
Why didn't you tell me sooner? I'd have gone
right in for you ; I never would have moved a
candlestick. Don't stay with me if it torments
you : don't, if you suffer, be where you see the old
rubbish. Go up to town go back for a little to
your father's. It need be only for a little ; two or
three weeks will see us through. Your father will
take you and be glad, if you only will make him
understand what it's a question of of your getting
142 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
yourself off his hands forever. Pll make him
understand, you know, if you feel shy. I'd take
you up myself, I'd go with you, to spare your being
bored : we'd put up at an hotel and we might
amuse ourselves a bit. We haven't had much
pleasure since we met, have we ? But of course
that wouldn't suit our book. I should be a buga-
boo to Owen I should be fatally in the way.
Your chance is there your chance is to be alone.
For God's sake use it to the right end. If you're
in want of money I've a little I can give you. But
I ask no questions not a question as small as
your shoe ! "
She asked no questions, but she took the most
extraordinary things for granted : Fleda felt this
still more at the end of a couple of days. On the
second of these our young lady wrote to Owen :
her emotion had to a certain degree cleared itself
there was something she could briefly say. If she
had given everything to Mrs. Gereth and as yet got
nothing, so she had on the other hand quickly
reacted it took but a night against the dis-
couragement of her first check. Her desire to
serve him was too passionate, the sense that he
counted upon her too sweet : these things caught
her up again and gave her a new patience and a
new subtlety. It shouldn't really be for nothing
that she had given so much ; deep within her
burned again the resolve to get something back.
So what she wrote to Owen was simply that she
had had a great scene with his mother, but that he
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 143
must be patient and give her time. It was difficult,
as they both had expected, but she was working
her hardest for him. She had made an impression
she would do everything to follow it up. Mean-
while he must keep intensely quiet and take no
other steps ; he must only trust her and pray for
her and believe in her perfect loyalty. She made
no allusion whatever to Mona's attitude, nor to his
not being, as regarded that young lady, master of
the situation ; but she said in a postscript, in refer-
ence to his mother, " Of course she wonders a good
deal why your marriage doesn't take place." After
the letter had gone she regretted having used the
word " loyalty " ; there were two or three milder
terms which she might as well have employed.
The answer she immediately received from Owen
was a little note of which she met all the deficiencies
by describing it to herself as pathetically simple,
but which, to prove that Mrs. Gereth might ask as
many questions as she liked, she at once made his
mother read. He had no art with his pen, he had
not even a good hand, and his letter, a short pro-
fession of friendly confidence, consisted of but a
few familiar and colourless words of acknowledg-
ment and assent. The gist of it was that he would
certainly, since Miss Vetch recommended it, not
hurry mamma too much. He would not for the
present cause her to be approached by any one
else, but he would nevertheless continue to hope
that she would see she must come round. "Of
course, you know," he added, " she can't keep me
144 THE SPOILS O.F POYNTON
waiting indefinitely. Please give her my love and
tell her that. If it can be done peaceably I know
you're just the one to do it."
Fleda had awaited his rejoinder in deep sus-
pense ; such was her imagination of the possibility
of his having, as she tacitly phrased it, let himself
go on paper that when it arrived she was at first
almost afraid to open it. There was indeed a
distinct danger, for if he should take it into his
head to write her love-letters the whole chance of
aiding him would drop : she would have to return
them, she would have to decline all further com-
munication with him ; it would be quite the end of
the business. This imagination of Fleda's was a
faculty that easily embraced all the heights and
depths and extremities of things ; that made a
single mouthful in particular of any tragic or
desperate necessity. She was perhaps at first
just a trifle disappointed not to find in the note in
question a syllable that strayed from the text ; but
the next moment she had risen to a point of view
from which it presented itself as a production
almost inspired in its simplicity. It was simple
even for Owen, and she wondered what had given
him the cue to be more so than usual. Then she
saw how natures that are right just do the things
that are right. He wasn't clever his manner of
writing showed it ; but the cleverest man in Eng-
land couldn't have had more the instinct that, under
the circumstances, was the supremely happy one,
the instinct of giving her something that would do
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 145
beautifully to be shown to Mrs. Gereth. This was
a kind of divination, for naturally he couldn't know
the line Mrs. Gereth was taking. It was further-
more explained and that was the most touching
part of all by his wish that she herself should
notice how awfully well he was behaving. His
very bareness called her attention to his virtue ;
and these were the exact fruits of her beautiful and
terrible admonition. He was cleaving to Mona ;
he was doing his duty ; he was making tremen-
dously sure he should be without reproach.
If Fleda handed this communication to her
friend as a triumphant gage of the innocence of the
young man's heart, her elation lived but a moment
after Mrs. Gereth had pounced upon the tell-tale
spot in it. "Why in the world, then," that lady
cried, " does he still not breathe a breath about the
day, the day^ the DAY?" She repeated the word
with a crescendo of superior acuteness ; she pro-
claimed that nothing could be more marked than
its absence an absence that simply spoke volumes.
What did it prove in fine but that she was pro-
ducing the effect she had toiled for that she had
settled or was rapidly settling Mona ?
Such a challenge Fleda was obliged in some
manner to take up. " You may be settling Mona,"
she returned with a smile, " but I can hardly regard
it as sufficient evidence that you're settling Mona's
" Why not, with such a studied omission on his
part to gloss over in any manner the painful tension
I 4 6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
existing between them the painful tension that,
under Providence, I've been the means of bringing
about? He gives you by his silence clear notice
that his marriage is practically off."
" He speaks to me of the only thing that con-
cerns me. He gives me clear notice that he abates
not one jot of his demand."
" Well, then, let him take the only way to get it
satisfied." , >
Fleda had no need to ask again what such a
way might be, nor was her support removed by the
fine assurance with which Mrs. Gereth could make
her argument wait upon her wish. These days,
which dragged their length into a strange, un-
comfortable fortnight, had already borne more
testimony to that element than all the other time
the two women had passed together. Our young
lady had been at first far from measuring the
whole of a feature that Owen himself would pro-
bably have described as her companion's " cheek."
She lived now in a kind of bath of boldness, felt
as if a fierce light poured in upon her from windows
opened wide ; and the singular part of the ordeal
was that she couldn't protest against it fully with-
out incurring even to her own mind some reproach
of ingratitude, some charge of smallness. If Mrs.
Gereth's apparent determination to hustle her into
Owen's arms was accompanied with an air of hold-
ing her dignity rather cheap, this was after all only
as a consequence of her being held in respect to
some other attributes rather dear. It was a new
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 147
version of the old story of being kicked up-stairs.
The wonderful woman was the same woman who,
in the summer, at Poynton, had been so puzzled
to conceive why a good-natured girl shouldn't have
contributed more to the personal rout of the Brig-
stocks shouldn't have been grateful even for the
handsome puff of Fleda Vetch. Only her passion
was keener now and her scruple more absent ; the
fight made a demand upon her, and her pugnacity
had become one with her constant habit of using
such weapons as she could pick up. She had no
imagination about anybody's life save on the side
she bumped against. Fleda was quite aware that
she would have otherwise been a rare creature ;
but a rare creature was originally just what she
had struck her as being. Mrs. Gereth had really
no perception of anybody's nature had only one
question about persons : were they clever or stupid ?
To be clever meant to know the marks. Fleda
knew them by direct inspiration, and a warm
recognition of this had been her friend's tribute to
her character. The girl had hours now of sombre
wishing that she might never see anything good
again : that kind of experience was evidently not
an infallible source of peace. She would be more
at peace in some vulgar little place that should owe
its cachet to a Universal Provider. There were
nice strong horrors in West Kensington ; it was as
if they beckoned her and wooed her back to them.
She had a relaxed recollection of Waterbath ; and
of her reasons for staying on at Ricks the force was
148 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
rapidly ebbing. One of these was her pledge to
Owen her vow to press his mother close ; the
other was the fact that of the two discomforts, that
of being prodded by Mrs. Gereth and that of
appearing to run after somebody else, the former
remained for a while the more endurable.
As the days passed, however, it became plainer
to Fleda that her only chance of success would be
in lending herself to this low appearance. Then
moreover, at last, her nerves settling the question,
the choice was simply imposed by the violence
done to her taste to whatever was left of that
high principle, at least, after the free and reckless
meeting, for months, of great drafts and appeals.
It was all very well to try to evade discussion :
Owen Gereth was looking to her for a struggle,
and it wasn't a bit of a struggle to be disgusted
and dumb. She was on too strange a footing
that of having presented an ultimatum and having
had it torn up in her face. In such a case as that
the envoy always departed ; he never sat gaping
and dawdling before the city. Mrs. Gereth every
morning looked publicly into The Morning Post,
the only newspaper she received ; and every morn-
ing she treated the blankness of that journal as
fresh evidence that everything was " off." What
did the Post exist for but to tell you your children
were wretchedly married ? so that if such a source
of misery was dry what could you do but infer
that for once you had miraculously escaped ? She
almost taunted Fleda with supineness in not getting
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 149
something out of somebody in the same breath
indeed in which she drenched her with a kind of
appreciation more onerous to the girl than blame.
Mrs. Gereth herself had of course washed her hands
of the matter; but Fleda knew people who knew
Mona and would be sure to be in her confidence
inconceivable people who admired her and had the
" entree " of Waterbath. What was the use there-
fore of being the most natural and the easiest of
letter-writers if no sort of side-light in some pre-
text for correspondence was, by a brilliant crea-
ture, to be got out of such barbarians ? Fleda was
not only a brilliant creature, but she heard herself
commended in these days for attractions new and
strange ; she figured suddenly in the queer con-
versations of Ricks as a distinguished, almost as
a dangerous beauty. That retouching of her hair
and dress in which her friend had impulsively in-
dulged on a first glimpse of her secret was by
implication very frequently repeated. She had the
sense not only of being advertised and offered, but
of being counselled and enlightened in ways that
she scarcely understood arts obscure even to a
poor girl who had had, in good society and mother-
less poverty, to look straight at realities and fill
These arts, when Mrs. Gereth's spirits were high,
were handled with a brave and cynical humour
with which Fleda's fancy could keep no step : they
left our young lady wondering what on earth her
companion wanted her to do. " I want you to cut
ISO THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
in ! " that was Mrs. Gereth's familiar and com-
prehensive phrase for the course she prescribed.
She challenged again and again Fleda's picture, as
she called it (though the sketch was too slight to
deserve the name), of the indifference to which a
prior attachment had committed the proprietor of
Poynton. " Do you mean to say that, Mona or no
Mona, he could see you that way, day after day,
and not have the ordinary feelings of a man?
Don't you know a little more, you absurd, affected
thing, what men are, the brutes?" This was the
sort of interrogation to which Fleda was fitfully
and irrelevantly treated. She had grown almost
used to the refrain. " Do you mean to say that
when, the other day, one had quite made you over
to him, the great gawk, and he was, on this very
spot, utterly alone with you ? " The poor girl at
this point never left any doubt of what she meant
to say ; but Mrs. Gereth could be trusted to break
out in another place and at another time. At last
Fleda wrote to her father that he must take her in
for a while ; and when, to her companion's delight,
she returned to London, that lady went with her
to the station and wafted her on her way. The
Morning Post had been delivered as they left the
house, and Mrs. Gereth had brought it with her for
the traveller, who never spent a penny on a news-
paper. On the platform, however, when this young
person was ticketed, labelled and seated, she opened
it at the window of the carriage, exclaiming as
usual, after looking into it a moment, " Nothing
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 151
nothing nothing: don't tell me!" Every day
that there was nothing was a nail in the coffin of
the marriage. An instant later the train was off,
but, moving quickly beside it, while Fleda leaned
inscrutably forth, Mrs. Gereth grasped her friend's
hand and looked up with wonderful eyes. " Only
let yourself go, darling only let yourself go ! "
THAT she desired to ask no prudish questions
Mrs. Gereth conscientiously proved by closing her
lips tight after Fleda had gone to London. No
letter from Ricks arrived at West Kensington, and
Fleda, with nothing to communicate that could
be to the taste of either party, forbore to open a
correspondence. If her heart had been less heavy
she might have been amused to perceive how much
free rope this reticence of Ricks seemed to signify
to her that she could take. She had at all events
no good news for her friend save in the sense that
her silence was not bad news. She was not yet
in a position to write that she had " cut in " ; but
neither, on the other hand, had she gathered
material for announcing that Mona was undis-
severable from her prey. She had made no use of
the pen so glorified by Mrs. Gereth to wake up the
echoes of Waterbath ; she had sedulously abstained
from inquiring what in any quarter, far or near,
was said or suggested or supposed. She only spent
a matutinal penny on The Morning Post; she only
saw, on each occasion, that that inspired sheet had
as little to say about the imminence as about the
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 153
abandonment of certain nuptials. It was at the
same time obvious that Mrs. Gereth triumphed on
these occasions much more than she trembled, and
that with a few such triumphs repeated she would
cease to tremble at all. What was most manifest,
however, was that she had had a rare preconception
of the circumstances that would have ministered,
had Fleda been disposed, to the girl's cutting in.
It was brought home to Fleda that these circum-
stances would have particularly favoured interven-
tion ; she was quickly forced to do them a secret
justice. One of the effects of her intimacy with
Mrs. Gereth was that she had quite lost all sense
of intimacy with any one else. The lady of Ricks
had made a desert around her, possessing and ab-
sorbing her so utterly that other partakers had
fallen away. Hadn't she been admonished, months
before, that people considered they had lost her
and were reconciled on the whole to the privation ?
Her present position in the great unconscious town
defined itself as obscure : she regarded it at any
rate with eyes suspicious of that lesson. She
neither wrote notes nor received them; she in-
dulged in no reminders nor knocked at any doors ;
she wandered vaguely in the western wilderness or
cultivated shy forms of that " household art " for
which she had had a respect before tasting the
bitter tree of knowledge. Her only plan was to be
as quiet as a mouse, and when she failed in the
attempt to lose herself in the flat suburb she felt
like a lonely fly crawling over a dusty chart.
154 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
How had Mrs. Gereth known in advance that if
she had chosen to be " vile " (that was what Fleda
called it) everything would happen to help her ?
especially the way her poor father, after breakfast,
doddered off to his club, showing seventy when he
was really fifty-seven and leaving her richly alone
for the day. He came back about midnight, look-
ing at her very hard and not risking long words
only making her feel by inimitable touches that the
presence of his family compelled him to alter all
his hours. She had in their common sitting-room
the company of the objects he was fond of saying
that he had collected objects, shabby and battered,
of a sort that appealed little to his daughter : old
brandy-flasks and match-boxes, old calendars and
hand-books, intermixed with an assortment of pen-
wipers and ash-trays, a harvest he had gathered in
from penny bazaars. He was blandly unconscious
of that side of Fleda's nature which had endeared
her to Mrs. Gereth, and she had often heard him
wish to goodness there was something striking she
cared for. Why didn't she try collecting some-
thing ? it didn't matter what. She would find it
gave an interest to life, and there was no end of
little curiosities one could easily pick up. He was
conscious of having a taste for fine things which
his children had unfortunately not inherited. This
indicated the limits of their acquaintance with him
limits which, as Fleda was now sharply aware,
could only leave him to wonder what the mischief
she was there for. As she herself echoed this
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 155
question to the letter she was not in a position to
clear up the mystery. She couldn't have given a
name to her errand in town or explained it save by
saying that she had had to get away from Ricks.
It was intensely provisional, but what was to come
next ? Nothing could come next but a deeper
anxiety. She had neither a home nor an outlook
nothing in all the wide world but a feeling of
Of course she had her duty her duty to Owen
a definite undertaking, re-affirmed, after his visit
to Ricks, under her hand and seal ; but there was
no sense of possession attached to that : there was
only a horrible sense of privation. She had quite
moved from under Mrs. Gereth's wide wing; and
now that she was really among the pen-wipers and
ash-trays she was swept, at the thought of all the
beauty she had forsworn, by short, wild gusts of
despair. If her friend should really keep the spoils
she would never return to her. If that friend
should on the other hand part with them what on
earth would there be to return to? The chill
struck deep as Fleda thought of the mistress of
Ricks reduced, in vulgar parlance, to what she had
on her back : there was nothing to which she could
compare such an image but her idea of Marie
Antoinette in the Conciergerie, or perhaps the
vision of some tropical bird, the creature of hot,
dense forests, dropped on a frozen moor to pick up
a living. The mind's eye could indeed see Mrs.
Gereth only in her thick, coloured air ; it took all
156 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
the light of her treasures to make her concrete and
distinct. She loomed for a moment, in any mere
house, gaunt and unnatural ; then she vanished as
if she had suddenly sunk into a quicksand. Fleda
lost herself in the rich fancy of how, if she were
mistress of Poynton, a whole province, as an abode,
should be assigned there to the august queen-
mother. She would have returned from her cam-
paign with her baggage-train and her loot, and the
palace would unbar its shutters and the morning
flash back from its halls. In the event of a
surrender the poor woman would never again be
able to begin to collect : she was now too old and
too moneyless, and times were altered and good
things impossibly dear. A surrender, furthermore,
to any daughter-in-law save an oddity like Mona
needn't at all be an abdication in fact ; any other
fairly nice girl whom Owen should have taken it
into his head to marry would have been positively
glad to have, for the museum, a custodian who was
a walking catalogue and who understood beyond
any one in England the hygiene and temperament
of rare pieces. A fairly nice girl would somehow
be away a good deal and would at such times count
it a blessing to feel Mrs. Gereth at her post.
Fleda had fully recognised, the first days, that,
quite apart from any question of letting Owen
know where she was, it would be a charity to give
him some sign : it would be weak, it would be ugly
to be diverted from that kindness by the fact that
Mrs. Gereth had attached a tinkling bell to it. A
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 157
frank relation with him was only superficially dis-
credited : she ought for his own sake to send him a
word of cheer. So she repeatedly reasoned, but she
as repeatedly delayed performance : if her general
plan had been to be as still as a mouse an inter-
view like the interview at Ricks would be an odd
contribution to that ideal. Therefore with a con-
fused preference of practice to theory she let the
days go by ; she felt that nothing was so impera-
tive as the gain of precious time. She shouldn't be
able to stay with her father for ever, but she might
now reap the benefit of having married her sister
Maggie's 'union had been built up round a small
spare room. Concealed in this apartment she
might try to paint again, and abetted by the
grateful Maggie for Maggie at least was grateful,
she might try to dispose of her work. She had not
indeed struggled with a brush since her visit to
Waterbath, where the sight of the family splotches
had put her immensely on her guard. Poynton,
moreover, had been an impossible place for pro-
ducing ; no active art could flourish there but a
Buddhistic contemplation. It had stripped its
mistress clean of all feeble accomplishments ; her
hands were imbrued neither with ink nor with
water-colour. Close to Fleda's present abode was
the little shop of a man who mounted and framed
pictures and desolately dealt in artists' materials.
She sometimes paused before it to look at a couple
of shy experiments for which its dull window con-
stituted publicity, small studies placed there for
158 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
sale and full of warning to a young lady without
fortune and without talent. Some such young lady
had brought them forth in sorrow ; some such
young lady, to see if they had been snapped up,
had passed and repassed as helplessly as she her-
self was doing. They never had been, they never
would be snapped up ; yet they were quite above
the actual attainment of some other young ladies.
It was a matter of discipline with Fleda to take an
occasional lesson from them ; besides which when
she now quitted the house she had to look for
reasons after she was out. The only place to find
them was in the shop-windows. They made her
feel like a servant-girl taking her " afternoon," but
that didn't signify : perhaps some day she would
resemble such a person still more closely. This
continued a fortnight, at the end of which the feel-
ing was suddenly dissipated. She had stopped as
usual in the presence of the little pictures ; then, as
she turned away, she had found herself face to face
with Owen Gereth.
At the sight of him two fresh waves passed
quickly across her heart, one at the heels of the
other. The first was an instant perception that
this encounter was not an accident ; the second a
consciousness as prompt that the best place for it
was the street. She knew before he told her that
he had been to see her, and the next thing she
knew was that he had had information from his
mother. Her mind grasped these things while he
said with a smile : " I saw only your back, but I
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 159
was sure. I was over the way. I've been at your
"How came you to know my house?" Fleda
" I like that ! " he laughed. " How came you not
to let me know that you were there ? "
Fleda, at this, thought it best also to laugh.
" Since I didn't let you know, why did you
come ? "
" Oh, I say ! " cried Owen. " Don't add insult
to injury. Why in the world didn't you let me
know? I came because I want awfully to see
you." He hesitated, then he added : " I got the
tip from mother. She has written to me fancy ! "
They still stood where they had met. Fleda's
instinct was to keep him there ; the more so that
she could already see him take for granted that
they would immediately proceed together to her
door. He rose before her with a different air : he
looked less ruffled and bruised than he had done
at Ricks ; he showed a recovered freshness. Per-
haps, however, this was only because she had
scarcely seen him at all as yet in London form, as
he would have called it " turned out " as he was
turned out in town. In the country, heated with
the chase -and splashed with the mire, he had
always rather reminded her of a picturesque
peasant in national costume. This costume, as
Owen wore it, varied from day to day ; it was as
copious as the wardrobe of an actor ; but it never
failed of suggestions of the earth and the weather,
160 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
the hedges and the ditches, the beasts and the
birds. There had been days when he struck her
as all nature in one pair of boots. It didn't make
him now another person that he was delicately
dressed, shining and splendid that he had a
higher hat and light gloves with black seams and
a spear-like umbrella ; but it made him, she soon
decided, really handsomer, and that in turn gave
him for she never could think of him, or indeed
of some other things, without the aid of his vocab-
ulary a tremendous pull. Yes, this was for the
moment, as he looked at her, the great fact of their
situation his pull was tremendous. She tried to
keep the acknowledgment of it from trembling in
her voice as she said to him with more surprise
than she really felt : " You've then re-opened rela-
tions with her ? "
" It's she who has re-opened them with me. I
got her letter this morning. She told me you
were here and that she wished me to know it. She
didn't say much ; she just gave me your address.
I wrote her back, you know, * Thanks no end.
Shall go to-day.' So we are in correspondence
again, aren't we ? She means of course that you've
something to tell me from her, hey ? But if you
have, why haven't you let a fellow know ? " He
waited for no answer to this, he had so much to
say. " At your house, just now, they told me how
long you've been here. Haven't you known all
the while that I'm counting the hours ? I left a
word for you that I would be back at six ; but
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 161
I'm awfully glad to have caught you so much
sooner. You don't mean to say you're not going
home ! " he exclaimed in dismay. " The young
woman there told me you went out early."
" I've been out a very short time," said Fleda,
who had hung back with the general purpose of
making things difficult for him. The street would
make them difficult ; she could trust the street.
She reflected in time, however, that to betray to
him she was afraid to admit him would give him
more a feeling of facility than of anything else.
She moved on with him after a moment, letting
him direct their course to her door, which was only
round a corner ; she considered as they went that
it might not prove such a stroke to have been in
London so long and yet not to have called him.
She desired he should feel she was perfectly simple
with him, and there was no simplicity in that.
None the less, on the steps of the house, though she
had a key, she rang the bell ; and while they waited
together and she averted her face she looked
straight into the depths of what Mrs. Gereth had
meant by giving him the " tip." This had been
perfidious, had been monstrous of Mrs. Gereth, and
Fleda wondered if her letter had contained only
what Owen repeated.
WHEN they had passed together into her father's
little place and, among the brandy-flasks and pen-
wipers, still more disconcerted and divided, the
girl to do something, though it would make him
stay had ordered tea, he put the letter before her
quite as if he had guessed her thought. "She's
still a bit nasty fancy ! " He handed her the
scrap of a note which he had pulled out of his
pocket and from its envelope. "Fleda Vetch," it
ran, "is at West Kensington 10 Raphael Road.
Go to see her and try, for God's sake, to cultivate
a glimmer of intelligence." When in handing it
back to him she took in his face she saw that its
heightened colour was the effect of his watching
her read such an allusion to his want of wit. Fleda
knew what it was an allusion to, and his pathetic
air of having received this buffet, tall and fine
and kind as he stood there, made her conscious of
not quite concealing her knowledge. For a minute
she was kept silent by an angered sense of the
trick that had been played her. It was a trick
because Fleda considered there had been a cove-
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 163
nant ; and the trick consisted of Mrs. Gereth's
having broken the spirit of their agreement while
conforming in a fashion to the letter. Under the
girl's menace of a complete rupture she had been
afraid to make of her secret the use she itched to
make ; but in the course of these days of separa-
tion she had gathered pluck to hazard an indirect
betrayal. Fleda measured her hesitations and the
impulse which she had finally obeyed and which
the continued procrastination of Waterbath had
encouraged, had at last made irresistible. If in
her high-handed manner of playing their game she
had not named the thing hidden she had named
the hiding-place. It was over the sense of this
wrong that Fleda's lips closed tight: she was
afraid of aggravating her case by some ejaculation
that would make Owen prick up his ears. A
great, quick effort, however, helped her to avoid
the danger ; with her constant idea of keeping cool
and repressing a visible flutter she found herself
able to choose her words. Meanwhile he had
exclaimed with his uncomfortable laugh : " That's
a good one for me, Miss Vetch, isn't it ? "
"Of course you know by this time that your
mother's very sharp," said Fleda.
" I think I can understand well enough when I
know what's to be understood," the young man
asserted. "But I hope you won't mind my say-
ing that you've kept me pretty well in the dark
about that. I've been waiting, waiting, waiting
so much has depended on your news. If you've
164 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
been working for me I'm afraid it has been a
thankless job. Can't she say what she'll do, one
way or the other ? I can't tell in the least where
I am, you know. I haven't really learnt from you,
since I saw you there, where she is. You wrote me
to be patient, and upon my soul I have been. But
I'm afraid you don't quite realise what I'm to be
patient with. At Waterbath, don't you know?
I've simply to account and answer for the damned
things. Mona glowers at me and waits, and I,
hang it, I glower at you and do the same." Fleda
had gathered fuller confidence as he continued ; so
plain was it that she had succeeded in not dropping
into his mind the spark that might produce the
glimmer his mother had tried to rub up. But even
her small safety gave a start when after an appealing
pause he went on : "I hope, you know, that after
all you're not keeping anything back from me."
In the full face of what she was keeping back
such a hope could only make her wince ; but she
was prompt with her explanations in proportion
as she felt they failed to meet him. The smutty
maid came in with tea-things, and Fleda, moving
several objects, eagerly accepted the diversion of
arranging a place for them on one of the tables.
" I've been trying to break your mother down
because it has seemed there may be some chance
of it. That's why I've let you go on expecting it.
She's too proud to veer round all at once, but
I think I speak correctly in saying that I've made
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 165
In spite of ordering tea she had not invited him
to sit down ; she herself made a point of standing.
He hovered by the window that looked into
Raphael Road ; she kept at the other side of the
room ; the stunted slavey, gazing wide-eyed at the
beautiful gentleman and either stupidly or cun-
ningly bringing but one thing at a time, came and
went between the tea-tray and the open door.
" You pegged at her so hard ? " Owen asked.
" I explained to her fully your position and put
before her much more strongly than she liked what
seemed to me her absolute duty."
Owen waited a little. " And having done that
you departed ? "
Fleda felt the full need of giving a reason for
her departure ; but at first she only said with
cheerful frankness : " I departed."
Her companion again looked at her in silence.
" I thought you had gone to her for several
"Well," Fleda replied, "I couldn't stay. I
didn't like it. I didn't like it at all I couldn't
bear it," she went on. "In the midst of those
trophies of Poynton, living with them, touching
them, using them, I felt as if I were backing her
up. As I was not a bit of an accomplice, as I hate
what she has done, I didn't want to be, even to
the extent of the mere look of it what is it you
call such people? an accessory after the fact."
There was something she kept back so rigidly
that the joy of uttering the rest was double. She
166 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
felt the sharpest need of giving him all the other
truth. There was a matter as to which she had
deceived him, and there was a matter as to which
she had deceived Mrs. Gereth, but her lack of
pleasure in deception as such came home to her
now. She busied herself with the tea and, to
extend the occupation, cleared the table still more,
spreading out the coarse cups and saucers and the
vulgar little plates. She was aware that she pro-
duced more confusion than symmetry, but she was
also aware that she was violently nervous. Owen
tried to help her with something : this made indeed
for disorder. " My reason for not writing to you,"
she pursued, "was simply that I was hoping to
hear more from Ricks. I've waited from day to
day for that."
" But you've heard nothing ? "
" Not a word."
" Then what I understand," said Owen, " is that
practically you and Mummy have quarrelled.
And you've done it I mean you personally for
" Oh no, we haven't quarrelled a bit ! " Then
with a smile : " We've only diverged."
"You've diverged uncommonly far!" Owen
laughed pleasantly back. Fleda, with her hideous
crockery and her father's collections, could con-
ceive that these objects, to her visitor's perception
even more strongly than to her own, measured the
length of the swing from Poynton and Ricks ; she
was aware too that her high standards figured
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 167
vividly enough even to Owen's simplicity to make
him reflect that West Kensington was a tremen-
dous fall. If she had fallen it was because she
had acted for him. She was all the more content
he should thus see she had acted, as the cost of it,
in his eyes, was none of her own showing. " What
seems to have happened," he exclaimed, "is that
you've had a row with her and yet not moved
her ! "
Fleda considered a moment ; she was full of the
impression that, notwithstanding her scant help, he
saw his way clearer than he had seen it at Ricks.
He might mean many things ; and what if the
many should mean in their turn only one ? " The
difficulty is, you understand, that she doesn't really
see into your situation." She hesitated. " She
doesn't comprehend why your marriage hasn't yet
Owen stared. " Why, for the reason I told you :
that Mona won't take another step till mother
has given full satisfaction. Everything must be
there. You see everything was there the day of
that fatal visit."
"Yes, that's what I understood from you at
Ricks," said Fleda ; " but I haven't repeated it
to your mother." She had hated at Ricks to
talk with him about Mona, but now that scruple
was swept away. If he could speak of Mona's
visit as fatal she need at least not pretend not to
notice it. It made all the difference that she had
tried to assist him and had failed : to give him
i68 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
any faith in her service she must give him all her
reasons but one. She must give him, in other
words, with a corresponding omission, all Mrs.
Gereth's. "You can easily see that, as she dis-
likes your marriage, anything that may seem to
make it less certain works in her favour. Without
my telling her, she has suspicions and views that
are simply suggested by your delay. Therefore
it didn't seem to me right to make them worse.
By holding off long enough, she thinks she may
put an end to your engagement. If Mona's wait-
ing she believes she may at last tire Mona out."
That, in all conscience, Fleda felt was lucid enough.
So the young man, following her attentively,
appeared equally to feel. "So far as that goes,"
he promptly declared, " she has at last tired Mona
out." He uttered the words with a strange approach
Fleda's surprise at this aberration left her a
moment looking at him. " Do you mean your
marriage is off? "
Owen answered with a kind of gay despair.
" God knows, Miss Vetch, where or when or what
my marriage is ! If it isn't ' off/ it certainly, at the
point things have reached, isn't on. I haven't seen
Mona for ten days, and for a week I haven't heard
from her. She used to write me every week, don't
you know ? She won't budge from Waterbath and
I haven't budged from town." Then he suddenly
broke out : " If she does chuck me, will mother come
round ? "
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 169
Fleda, at this, felt that her heroism had come
to its real test felt that in telling him the truth
she should effectively raise a hand to push his
impediment out of the way. Was the knowledge
that such a motion would probably dispose forever
of Mona capable of yielding to the conception of
still giving her every chance she was entitled to?
That conception was heroic, but at the same moment
it reminded Fleda of the place it had held in her
plan she was also reminded of the not less urgent
claim of the truth. Ah, the truth there was a
limit to the impunity with which one could juggle
with it ! Wasn't what she had most to remember
the fact that Owen had a right to his property and
that he had also her vow to stand by him in the
effort to recover it? How did she stand by him if
she hid from him the single way to recover it of
which she was quite sure ? For an instant that
seemed to her the fullest of her life she debated.
" Yes," she said at last, " if your marriage is really
abandoned she will give up everything she has
" That's just what makes Mona hesitate ! " Owen
honestly exclaimed. " I mean the idea that I shall
get back the things only if she gives me up."
Fleda thought an instant. "You mean makes
her hesitate to keep you not hesitate to renounce
you ? "
Owen looked a trifle befogged. "She doesn't
see the use of hanging on, as I haven't even yet put
the matter into legal hands. She's awfully keen
i?o THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
about that, and awfully disgusted that I don't. She
says it's the only real way, and she thinks I'm afraid
to take it. She has given me time and then has
given me again more. She says I give Mummy too
much. She says I'm a muff to go pottering on.
That's why she's drawing off so hard, don't you
" I don't see very clearly. Of course you must
give her what you offered her ; of course you must
keep your word. There must be no mistake about
that!" the girl declared.
Owen's bewilderment visibly increased. " You
think, then, as she does, that I must send down the
police ? "
The mixture of reluctance and dependence in
this made her feel how much she was failing him :
she had the sense of " chucking " him too. " No,
no, not yet ! " she said, though she had really no
other and no better course to prescribe. " Doesn't
it occur to you," she asked in a moment, " that if
Mona is, as you say, drawing away, she may have,
in doing so, a very high motive ? She knows the
immense value of all the objects detained by your
mother, and to restore the spoils of Poynton she is
reac jy i s that it ? to make a sacrifice. The sacri-
fice is that of an engagement she had entered upon
Owen had been blank a moment before, but he
followed this argument with success a success so
immediate that it enabled him to produce with
decision : " Ah, she's not that sort ! She wants them
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 171
herself," he added ; " she wants to feel they're hers ;
she doesn't care whether I have them or not ! And
if she can't get them she doesn't want me. If she
can't get them she doesn't want anything at all."
This was categoric : Fleda drank it in. " She
takes such an interest in them ? "
" So it appears."
" So much that they're all, and that she can let
everything else absolutely depend upon them ? "
Owen weighed her question as if he felt the
responsibility of his answer. But that answer came
in a moment and, as Fleda could see, out of a wealth
of memory. " She never wanted them particularly
till they seemed to be in danger. Now she has an
idea about them ; and when she gets hold of an idea
oh dear me ! " He broke off, pausing and looking
away as with a sense of the futility of expression :
it was the first time Fleda had ever heard him
explain a matter so pointedly or embark at all on a
generalisation. It was striking, it was touching to
her, as he faltered, that he appeared but half capable
of floating his generalisation to the end. The girl,
however, was so far competent to fill up his blank
as that she had divined on the occasion of Mona's
visit to Poynton what would happen in the event of
the accident at which he glanced. She had there
with her own eyes seen Owen's betrothed get hold
of an idea. " I say, you know, do give me some
tea ! " he went on irrelevantly and familiarly.
Her profuse preparations had all this time had no
sequel, and with a laugh that she felt to be awkward
172 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
she hastily complied with his request. " It's sure to
be horrid," she said ; " we don't have at all good
things." She offered him also bread and butter, of
which he partook, holding his cup and saucer in his
other hand and moving slowly about the room. She
poured herself a cup, but not to take it ; after which,
without wanting it, she began to eat a small stale
biscuit. She was struck with the extinction of the
unwillingness she had felt at Ricks to contribute to
the bandying between them of poor Mona's name ;
and under this influence she presently resumed :
" Am I to understand that she engaged herself to
marry you without caring for you ? "
Owen looked out into Raphael Road. " She did
care for me awfully. But she can't stand the
" The strain of what ? "
" Why, of the whole wretched thing."
"The whole thing has indeed been wretched,
and I can easily conceive its effect upon her,"
Her visitor turned sharp round. " You can ? "
There was a light in his strong stare. " You can
understand it's spoiling her temper and making
her come down on me ? She behaves as if I were
of no use to her at all ! "
Fleda hesitated. " She's rankling under the
sense of her wrong."
" Well, was it I, pray, who perpetrated the
wrong? Ain't I doing what I can to get the thing
arranged ? "
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 173
The ring of his question made his anger at
Mona almost resemble for a minute an anger at
Fleda; and this resemblance in turn caused our
young lady to observe how handsome he looked
when he spoke, for the first time in her hearing,
with that degree of heat, and used, also for the
first time, such a term as " perpetrated." In addi-
tion his challenge rendered still more vivid to her
the mere flimsiness of her own aid. " Yes, you've
been perfect," she said. " You've had a most diffi-
cult part. You've had to show tact and patience,
as well as firmness, with your mother, and you've
strikingly shown them. It's I who, quite uninten-
tionally, have deceived you. I haven't helped you
at all to your remedy."
"Well, you wouldn't at all events have ceased
to like me, would you ? " Owen demanded. It
evidently mattered to him to know if she really
justified Mona. " I mean of course if you had
liked me liked me as she liked me," he explained.
Fleda looked this inquiry in the face only long
enough to recognise that in her embarrassment she
must take instant refuge in a superior one. " I
can answer that better if I know how kind to her
you've been. Have you been kind to her ? " she
asked as simply as she could.
"Why, rather, Miss Vetch!" Owen declared.
" I've done every blessed thing she wished. I
rushed down to Ricks, as you saw, with fire and
sword, and the day after that I went to see her
at Waterbath." At this point he checked himself,
174 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
though it was just the point at which her interest
deepened. A different look had come into his
face as he put down his empty teacup. " But why
should I tell you such things, for any good it does
me ? I gather that you've no suggestion to make
me now except that I shall request my solicitor to
act. Shall I request him to act ? "
Fleda scarce caught his words : something new
had suddenly come into her mind. "When you
went to Waterbath after seeing me," she asked,
" did you tell her all about that? "
Owen looked conscious. "All about it?"
" That you had had a long talk with me without
seeing your mother at all ? "
" Oh yes, I told her exactly, and that you had
been most awfully kind and that I had placed the
whole thing in your hands."
Fleda was silent a moment. " Perhaps that dis-
pleased her," she at last suggested.
" It displeased her fearfully," said Owen, looking
" Fearfully ? " broke from the girl. Somehow,
at the word, she was startled.
"She wanted to know what right you had to
meddle. She said you were not honest."
" Oh ! " Fleda cried with a long wail. Then she
controlled herself. " I see."
"She abused you, and I defended you. She
denounced you "
She checked him with a gesture. " Don't tell
me what she did ! " She had coloured up to her
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 175
eyes, where, as with the effect of a blow in the
face, she quickly felt the tears gathering. It was
a sudden drop in her great flight, a shock to her
attempt to watch over what Mona was entitled to.
While she had been straining her very soul in this
attempt the object of her magnanimity had been
practically pronouncing her vile. She took it all
in, however, and after an instant was able to speak
with a smile. She would not have been surprised
to learn indeed that her smile was strange. " You
had said a while ago that your mother and I quar-
relled about you. It's much more true that you
and Mona have quarrelled about me"
Owen hesitated, but at last he brought it out.
" What I mean to say is, don't you know, that
Mona, if you don't mind my saying so, has taken
it into her head to be jealous."
" I see," said Fleda. " Well, I dare say our con-
ferences have looked very odd."
" They've looked very beautiful, and they've been
very beautiful. Oh, I've told her the sort you are!"
the young man pursued.
"That of course hasn't made her love me
" No, nor love me," said Owen. " Of course, you
know, she says as far as that goes that she loves
"And do you say you love her? "
" I say nothing else I say it all the while. I said
it the other day a dozen times." Fleda made no
immediate rejoinder to this, and before she could
i;6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
choose one he repeated his question of a moment
before. "Am I to tell my solicitor to act? "
She had at that moment turned away from this
solution, precisely because she saw in it the great
chance of her secret. If she should determine him
to adopt it she might put out her hand and take
him. It would shut in Mrs. Gereth's face the open
door of surrender : she would flare up and fight,
flying the flag of a passionate, an heroic defence.
The case would obviously go against her, but the
proceedings would last longer than Mona's patience
or Owen's propriety. With a formal rupture he
would be at large ; and she had only to tighten
her fingers round the string that would raise the
curtain on that scene. "You tell me you 'say'
you love her, but is there nothing more in it than
your saying so ? You wouldn't say so, would you,
if it's not true ? What in the world has become in
so short a time of the affection that led to your
engagement ? "
" The deuce knows what has become of it, Miss
Vetch ! " Owen cried. "It seemed all to go to pot
as this horrid struggle came on." He was close to
her now and, with his face lighted again by the
relief of it, he looked all his helpless history into
her eyes. "As I saw you and noticed you more,
as I knew you better and better, I felt less and
less I couldn't help it about anything or any
one else. I wished I had known you sooner I
knew I should have liked you better than any one
in the world. But it wasn't you who made the
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 177
difference," he eagerly continued, "and I was
awfully determined to stick to Mona to the death.
It was she herself who made it, upon my soul, by
the state she got into, the way she sulked, the way
she took things and the way she let me have it!
She destroyed our prospects and our happiness,
upon my honour. She made just the same smash
of them as if she had kicked over that tea-table.
She wanted to know all the while what was passing
between us, between you and me ; and she wouldn't
take my solemn assurance that nothing was passing
but what might have directly passed between me
and old Mummy. She said a pretty girl like you
was a nice old Mummy for me, and, if you'll believe
it, she never called you anything else but that. I'll
be hanged if I haven't been good, haven't I ? I
haven't breathed a breath of any sort to you, have
I ? You'd have been down on me hard if I had,
wouldn't you ? You're down on me pretty hard as
it is, I think, aren't you ? But I don't care what
you say now, or what Mona says either, or a single
rap what any one says : she has given me at last
by her confounded behaviour a right to speak out,
to utter the way I feel about it. The way I feel
about it, don't you know, is that it had- all better
come to an end. You ask me if I don't love her,
and I suppose it's natural enough you should.
But you ask it at the very moment I'm half mad
to say to you that there's only one person on the
whole earth I really love, and that that person "
Here Owen pulled up short, and Fleda wondered
i;8 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
if it were from the effect of his perceiving, through
the closed door, the sound of steps and voices on
the landing of the stairs. She had caught this
sound herself with surprise and a vague uneasiness :
it was not an hour at which her father ever came
in, and there was no present reason why she should
have a visitor. She had a fear which after a few
seconds deepened : a visitor was at hand ; the
visitor would be simply Mrs. Gereth. That lady
wished for a near view of the consequence of her
note to Owen. Fleda straightened herself with the
instant thought that if this was what Mrs. Gereth
desired Mrs. Gereth should have it in a form not
to be mistaken. Owen's pause was the matter of
a moment, but during that moment our young
couple stood with their eyes holding each other's
eyes and their ears catching the suggestion, still
through the door, of a murmured conference in the
hall. Fleda had begun to make the movement to
cut it short when Owen stopped her with a grasp
of her arm. " You're surely able to guess," he said
with his voice dropped and her arm pressed as she
had never known such a drop or such a pressure
"you're surely able to guess the one person on
earth I love?"
The handle of the door turned, and Fleda had
only time to jerk at him : " Your mother ! "
The door opened, and the smutty maid, edging
in, announced " Mrs. Brigstock ! "
MRS. BRIGSTOCK, in the doorway, stood looking
from one of the occupants of the room to the other ;
then they saw her eyes attach themselves to a small
object that had lain hitherto unnoticed on the
carpet. This was the biscuit of which, on giving
Owen his tea, Fleda had taken a perfunctory
nibble : she had immediately laid it on the table,
and that subsequently, in some precipitate move-
ment, she should have brushed it off was doubtless
a sign of the agitation that possessed her. For
Mrs. Brigstock there was apparently more in it
than met the eye. Owen at any rate picked it up,
and Fleda felt as if he were removing the traces of
some scene that the newspapers would have charac-
terised as lively. Mrs. Brigstock clearly took in
also the sprawling tea-things and the mark as of
high water in the full faces of her young friends.
These elements made the little place a vivid picture
of intimacy. A minute was filled by Fleda's relief
at finding her visitor not to be Mrs. Gereth, and a
longer space by the ensuing sense of what was
really more compromising in the actual apparition.
i8o THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
It dimly occurred to her that the lady of Ricks had
also written to Waterbath. Not only had Mrs.
Brigstock never paid her a call, but Fleda would
have been unable to figure her so employed. A
year before the girl had spent a day under her
roof, but never feeling that Mrs. Brigstock regarded
this as constituting a bond. She had never stayed
in any house but Poynton, where the imagination
of a bond, on one side or the other, prevailed.
After the first astonishment she dashed gaily at
her guest, emphasising her welcome and wondering
how her whereabouts had become known at Water-
bath. Had not Mrs. Brigstock quitted that resi-
dence for the very purpose of laying her hand on
the associate of Mrs. Gereth's misconduct? The
spirit in which this hand was to be laid our young
lady was yet to ascertain ; but she was a person
who could think ten thoughts at once a circum-
stance which, even putting her present plight at its
worst, gave her a great advantage over a person
who required easy conditions for dealing even with
one. The very vibration of the air, however, told
her that whatever Mrs. Brigstock's spirit might
originally have been it had been sharply affected
by the sight of Owen. He was essentially a sur-
prise : she had reckoned with everything that con-
cerned him but his personal presence. With that,
in awkward silence, she was reckoning now, as
Fleda could see, while she effected with friendly
aid an embarrassed transit to the sofa. Owen
would be useless, would be deplorable : that aspect
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 181
of the case Fleda had taken in as well. Another
aspect was that he would admire her, adore her,
exactly in proportion as she herself should rise
gracefully superior. Fleda felt for the first time
free to let herself " go," as Mrs. Gereth had said,
and she was full of the sense that to " go " meant
now to aim straight at the effect of moving Owen
to rapture at her simplicity and tact. It was her
impression that he had no positive dislike of Mona's
mother ; but she couldn't entertain that notion
without a glimpse of the implication that he had a
positive dislike of Mrs. Brigstock's daughter. Mona's
mother declined tea, declined a better seat, declined
a cushion, declined to remove her boa : Fleda
guessed that she had not come on purpose to be
dry, but that the voice of the invaded room had
itself given her the hint.
" I just came on the mere chance," she said.
" Mona found yesterday somewhere the card of
invitation to your sister's marriage that you sent
us, or your father sent us, some time ago. We
couldn't be present it was impossible ; but as it
had this address on it I said to myself that I might
find you here."
" I'm very glad to be at home," Fleda responded.
" Yes, that doesn't happen very often, does it ? "
Mrs. Brigstock looked round afresh at Fleda's
"Oh, I came back from Ricks last week. I
shall be here now till I don't know when."
"We thought it very likely you would have
182 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
come back. We knew of course of your having been
at Ricks. If I didn't find you I thought I might
perhaps find Mr. Vetch," Mrs. Brigstock went on.
" I'm sorry he's out. He's always out all day
Mrs. Brigstock's round eyes grew rounder. "All
day long ? "
" All day long," Fleda smiled.
" Leaving you quite to yourself? "
" A good deal to myself, but a little, to-day, as
you see, to Mr. Gereth " and the girl looked at
Owen to draw him into their sociability. For Mrs.
Brigstock he had immediately sat down ; but the
movement had not corrected the sombre stiffness
taking possession of him at the sight of her.
Before he found a response to the appeal addressed
to him Fleda turned again to her other visitor.
" Is there any purpose for which you would like
my father to call on you ? "
Mrs. Brigstock received this question as if it
were not to be unguardedly answered ; upon which
Owen intervened with pale irrelevance : " I wrote
to Mona this morning of Miss Vetch's being in
town ; but of course the letter hadn't arrived when
you left home."
" No, it hadn't arrived. I came up for the night
I've several matters to attend to." Then looking
with an intention of fixedness from one of her
companions to the other, " I'm afraid I've inter-
rupted your conversation," Mrs. Brigstock said.
She spoke without effectual point, had the air of
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 183
merely announcing the fact. Fleda had not yet
been, confronted with the question of the sort of
person Mrs. Brigstock was ; she had only been
confronted with the question of the sort of person
Mrs. Gereth scorned her for being. She was
really somehow no sort of person at all, and it
came home to Fleda that if Mrs. Gereth could see
her at this moment she would scorn her more than
ever. She had a face of which it was impossible
to say anything but that it was pink, and a mind
that it would be possible to describe only if one
had been able to mark it in a similar fashion. As
nature had made this organ neither green nor blue
nor yellow there was nothing to know it by : it
strayed and bleated like an unbranded sheep.
Fleda felt for it at this moment much of the kind-
ness of compassion, since Mrs. Brigstock had
brought it with her to do something for her that
she regarded as delicate. Fleda was quite prepared
to help it to perform if she should be able to
gather what it wanted to do. What she gathered,
however, more and more was that it wanted to do
something different from what it had wanted to do
in leaving Waterbath. There was still nothing to
enlighten her more specifically in the way her
visitor continued : " You must be very much taken
up. I believe you quite espouse his dreadful
Fleda vaguely demurred. " His dreadful quarrel ? "
" About the contents of the house. Aren't you
looking after them for him ? "
184 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" She knows how awfully kind you've been to
me," Owen said. He showed such discomfiture
that he really gave away their situation ; and Fleda
found herself divided between the hope that he
would take leave and the wish that he should see
the whole of what the occasion might enable her
to bring to pass for him.
She explained to Mrs. Brigstock. " Mrs. Gereth,
at Ricks the other day, asked me particularly to
see him for her."
" And did she ask you also particularly to see
him here in town?" Mrs. Brigstock's hideous
bonnet seemed to argue for the unsophisticated
truth ; and it was on Fleda's lips to reply that such
had indeed been Mrs. Gereth's request. But she
checked herself, and before she could say anything
else Owen had addressed their companion.
" I made a point of letting Mona know that I
should be here, don't you see ? That's exactly
what I wrote her this morning."
" She would have had no doubt you would be
here if you had a chance," Mrs. Brigstock returned.
"If your letter had arrived it might have prepared
me for finding you here at tea. In that case I
certainly wouldn't have come."
" I'm glad then it didn't arrive. Shouldn't you
like him to go ? " Fleda asked.
Mrs. Brigstock looked at Owen and considered :
nothing showed in her face but that it turned a
deeper pink. " I should like him to go with me"
There was no menace in her tone, but she evidently
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 185
knew what she wanted. As Owen made no re-
sponse to this Fleda glanced at him to invite him
to assent ; then for fear that he wouldn't, and
would thereby make his case worse, she took upon
herself to declare that she was sure he would be
very glad to meet such a wish. She had no sooner
spoken than she felt that the words had a bad
effect of intimacy : she had answered for him as
if she had been his wife. Mrs. Brigstock continued
to regard him as if she had observed nothing and
she continued to address Fleda. " I've not seen
him for a long time I've particular things to say
" So have I things to say to you, Mrs. Brig-
stock ! " Owen interjected. With this he took up
his hat as if for immediate departure.
The other visitor meanwhile turned to Fleda.
" What is Mrs. Gereth going to do ? "
" Is that what you came to ask me ? " Fleda
" That and several other things."
" Then you had much better let Mr. Gereth go,
and stay by yourself and make me a pleasant visit.
You can talk with him when you like, but it's the
first time you've been to see me."
This appeal had evidently a certain effect ; Mrs.
Brigstock visibly wavered. " I can't talk with him
whenever I like," she returned ; " he hasn't been
near us since I don't know when. But there are
things that have brought me here."
"They can't be things of any importance,"
186 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Owen, to Fleda's surprise, suddenly asserted. He
had not at first taken up Mrs. Brigstock's expres-
sion of a wish to carry him off: Fleda could see
that the instinct at the bottom of this was that of
standing by her, of seeming not to abandon her.
But abruptly, all his soreness working within him,
it had struck him that he should abandon her still
more if he should leave her to be dealt with by her
other visitor. "You must allow me to say, you
know, Mrs. Brigstock, that I don't think you should
come down on Miss Vetch about anything. It's
very good of her to take the smallest interest in us
and our horrid, vulgar little squabble. If you want
to talk about it, talk about it with me? He was
flushed with the idea of protecting Fleda, of ex-
hibiting his consideration for her. " I don't like
you cross-questioning her, don't you see ? She's
as straight as a die : I'll tell you all about her ! "
he declared with an excited laugh. " Please come
off with me and let her alone."
Mrs. Brigstock, at this, became vivid at once ;
Fleda thought she looked most peculiar. She
stood straight up, with a queer distention of her
whole person and of everything in her face but her
mouth, which she gathered into a small, tight orifice.
Fleda was painfully divided ; her joy was deep
within, but it was more relevant to the situation
that she should not appear to associate herself with
the tone of familiarity in which Owen addressed a
lady who had been, and was perhaps still, about to
become his mother-in-law. She laid on Mrs. Brig-
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 187
stock's arm a repressive, persuasive hand. Mrs.
Brigstock, however, had already exclaimed on her
having so wonderful a defender. " He speaks,
upon my word, as if I had come here to be rude
to you ! "
At this, grasping her hard, Fleda laughed ; then
she achieved the exploit of delicately kissing her.
" I'm not in the least afraid to be alone with you,
or of your tearing me to pieces. I'll answer any
question that you can possibly dream of putting to
" I'm the proper person to answer Mrs. Brig-
stock's questions," Owen broke in again, "and I'm
not a bit less ready to meet them than you are."
He was firmer than she had ever seen him ; it was
as if she had not dreamed he could be so firm.
" But she'll only have been here a few minutes.
What sort of a visit is that ? " Fleda cried.
" It has lasted long enough for my purpose.
There was something I wanted to know, but I
think I know it now."
" Anything you don't know I dare say I can tell
you ! " Owen observed as he impatiently smoothed
his hat with the cuff of his coat.
Fleda by this time desired immensely to keep
his companion, but she saw she could do so only at
the cost of provoking on his part a further exhibi-
tion of the sheltering attitude which he exaggerated
precisely because it was the first thing, since he
had begun to "like" her, that he had been able
frankly to do for her. It was not in her interest
i88 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
that Mrs. Brigstock should be more struck than
she already was with that benevolence. "There
may be things you know that I don't," she pre-
sently said to her with a smile. " But I've a sort
of sense that you are labouring under some great
Mrs. Brigstock, at this, looked into her eyes
more deeply and yearningly than she had sup-
posed Mrs. Brigstock could look : it was the
flicker of a mild, muddled willingness to give her
a chance. Owen, however, quickly spoiled every-
thing, " Nothing is more probable than that Mrs.
Brigstock is doing what you say ; but there's no
one in the world to whom you owe an explanation.
I may owe somebody one I dare say I do. But
not you no ! "
" But what if there's one that it's no difficulty at
all for me to give ? " Fleda inquired. " I'm sure
that's the only one Mrs. Brigstock came to ask, if
she came to ask any at all."
Again the good lady looked hard at her young
hostess. " I came, I believe, Fleda, just, you know,
to plead with you."
Fleda, with a bright face, hesitated a moment.
" As if I were one of those bad women in a play ? "
The remark was disastrous : Mrs. Brigstock, on
whom her brightness was lost, evidently thought it
singularly free. She turned away as from a pre-
sence that had really defined itself as objectionable,
and Fleda had a vain sense that her good humour,
in which there was an idea, was taken for imperti-
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 189
nence or at least for levity. Her allusion was
improper even if she herself wasn't. Mrs. Brig-
stock's emotion simplified : it came to the same
thing. " I'm quite ready," that lady said to Owen
rather mildly and woundedly. " I do want to speak
to you very much."
" I'm completely at your service." Owen held
out his hand to Fleda. " Good-bye, Miss Vetch.
I hope to see you again to-morrow." He opened
the door for Mrs. Brigstock, who passed before the
girl with an oblique, averted salutation. Owen
and Fleda, while he stood at the door, then faced
each other darkly and without speaking. Their
eyes met once more for a long moment, and she
was conscious there was something in hers that the
darkness didn't quench, that he had never seen
before and that he was perhaps never to see again.
He stayed long enough to take it to take it with
a sombre stare that just showed the dawn of
wonder ; then he followed Mrs. Brigstock out of
HE had uttered the hope that he should see her
the next day, but Fleda could easily reflect that he
wouldn't see her if she were not there to be seen.
If there was a thing in the world she desired at
that moment it was that the next day should have
no point of resemblance with the day that had just
elapsed. She accordingly aspired to an absence :
she would go immediately down to Maggie. She
ran out that evening and telegraphed to her sister,
and in the morning she quitted London by an
early train. She required for this step no reason
but the sense of necessity. It was a strong
personal need ; she wished to interpose some-
thing, and there was nothing she could interpose
but distance, but time. If Mrs. Brigstock had to
deal with Owen she would allow Mrs. Brigstock
the chance. To be there, to be in the midst of
it, was the reverse of what she craved : she had
already been more in the midst of it than had
ever entered into her plan. At any rate she had
renounced her plan ; she had no plan now but the
plan of separation. This was to abandon Owen,
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 191
to give up the fine office of helping him back to
his own ; but when she had undertaken that office
she had not foreseen that Mrs. Gereth would defeat
it by a manoeuvre so remarkably simple. The
scene at her father's rooms had extinguished all
offices, and the scene at her father's rooms was
of Mrs. Gereth's producing. Owen, at all events,
must now act for himself: he had obligations to
meet, he had satisfactions to give, and Fleda fairly
ached with the wish that he might be equal to them.
She never knew the extent of her tenderness for
him till she became conscious of the present force
of her desire that he should be superior, be per-
haps even sublime. She obscurely made out that
superiority, that sublimity mightn't after all be
fatal. She closed her eyes and lived for a day or
two in the mere beauty of confidence. It was
with her on the short journey ; it was with her at
Maggie's ; it glorified the mean little house in the
stupid little town. Owen had grown larger to her :
he would do, like a man, whatever he should have
to do. He wouldn't be weak not as she was :
she herself was weak exceedingly.
Arranging her few possessions in Maggie's fewer
receptacles, she caught a glimpse of the bright
side of the fact that her old things were not such
a problem as Mrs. Gereth's. Picking her way
with Maggie through the local puddles, diving
with her into smelly cottages and supporting her,
at smellier shops, in firmness over the weight of
joints and the taste of cheese, it was still her own
192 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
secret that was universally interwoven. In the
puddles, the cottages, the shops she was com-
fortably alone with it ; that comfort prevailed even
while, at the evening meal, her brother-in-law
invited her attention to a diagram, drawn with a
fork on too soiled a tablecloth, of the scandalous
drains of the Convalescent Home. To be alone
with it she had come away from Ricks ; and now
she knew that to be alone with it she had come
away from London. This advantage was of course
menaced, though not immediately destroyed, by
the arrival on the second day of the note she
had been sure she should receive from Owen. He
had gone to West Kensington and found her flown,
but he had got her address from the little maid
and then hurried to a club and written to her.
"Why have you left me just when I want you
most?" he demanded. The next words, it was
true, were more reassuring on the question of his
steadiness. " I don't know what your reason may
be," they went on, "nor why you've not left a
line for me ; but I don't think you can feel that
I did anything yesterday that it wasn't right for
me to do. As regards Mrs. Brigstock certainly
I just felt what was right and I did it. She had
no business whatever to attack you that way, and
I should have been ashamed if I had left her there
to worry you. I won't have you worried by any
one. No one shall be disagreeable to you but me.
I didn't mean to be so yesterday, and I don't
to-day; but I'm perfectly free now to want you,
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 193
and I want you much more than you've allowed
me to explain. You'll see if I'm not all right, if
you'll let me come to you. Don't be afraid I'll
not hurt you nor trouble you. I give you my
honour I'll not hurt any one. Only I must see
you, on what I had to say to Mrs. B. She was
nastier than I thought she could be, but I'm
behaving like an angel. I assure you I'm all right
that's exactly what I want you to see. You
owe me something, you know, for what you said
you would do and haven't done ; what your
departure without a word gives me to understand
doesn't it ? that you definitely can't do. Don't
simply forsake me. See me if you only see me
once. I sha'n't wait for any leave I shall come
down to-morrow. I've been looking into trains
and find there's something that will bring me
down just after lunch and something very good
for getting me back. I won't stop long. For
God's sake, be there."
This communication arrived in the morning, but
Fleda would still have had time to wire a protest.
She debated on that alternative ; then she read the
note over and found in one phrase an exact state-
ment of her duty. Owen's simplicity had expressed
it, and her subtlety had nothing to answer. She
owed him something for her obvious failure, and
what she owed him was to receive him. If indeed
she had known he would make this attempt she
might have been held to have gained nothing by
her flight. Well, she had gained what she had
194 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
gained she had gained the interval. She had no
compunction for the greater trouble she should give
the young man ; it was now doubtless right that he
should have as much trouble as possible. Maggie,
who thought she was in her confidence, yet was
immensely not, had reproached her for having
quitted Mrs. Gereth, and Maggie was just in this
proportion gratified to hear of the visitor with
whom, early in the afternoon, Fleda would have to
ask to be left alone. Maggie liked to see far, and
now she could sit up-stairs and rake the whole
future. She had known that, as she familiarly
said, there was something the matter with Fleda,
and the value of that knowledge was augmented
by the fact that there was apparently also some-
thing the matter with Mr. Gereth.
Fleda, down-stairs, learned soon enough what
this was. It was simply that, as he announced
the moment he stood before her, he was now all
right. When she asked him what he meant by
that state he replied that he meant he could
practically regard himself henceforth as a free
man : he had had at West Kensington, as soon as
they got into the street, such a horrid scene with
" I knew what she wanted to say to me : that's
why I was determined to get her off. I knew I
shouldn't like it, but I was perfectly prepared,"
said Owen. " She brought it out as soon as we
got round the corner. She asked me point-blank
if I was in love with you."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 195
" And what did you say to that ? "
" That it was none of her business."
"Ah," said Fleda, " I'm not so sure ! "
" Well, / am, and I'm the person most concerned.
Of course I didn't use just those words : I was
perfectly civil, quite as civil as she. But I told her
I didn't consider she had a right to put me any
such question. I said I wasn't sure that even
Mona had, with the extraordinary line, you know,
that Mona has taken. At any rate the whole
thing, the way / put it, was between Mona and
me ; and between Mona and me, if she didn't
mind, it would just have to remain."
Fleda was silent a little. "All that didn't
answer her question."
" Then you think I ought to have told her ? "
Again our young lady reflected. " I think I'm
rather glad you didn't."
" I knew what I was about," said Owen. " It
didn't strike me that she had the least right to
come down on us that way and ask for explana-
Fleda looked very grave, weighing the whole
matter. " I dare say that when she started, when
she arrived, she didn't mean to ' come down.' "
" What then did she mean to do ? "
" What she said to me just before she went : she
meant to plead with me."
"Oh, I heard her!" said Owen. "But plead
with you for what ? "
" For you, of course to entreat me to give you
196 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
up. She thinks me awfully designing that I've
taken some sort of possession of you."
Owen stared. "You haven't lifted a finger!
It's I who have taken possession."
" Very true, you've done it all yourself." Fleda
spoke gravely and gently, without a breath of
coquetry. "But those are shades between which
she's probably not obliged to distinguish. It's
enough for her that we're repulsively intimate."
" I am, but you're not ! " Owen exclaimed.
Fleda gave a dim smile. " You make me at
least feel that I'm learning to know you very well
when I hear you say such a thing as that. Mrs.
Brigstock came to get round me, to supplicate me,"
she went on ; " but to find you there looking so
much at home, paying me a friendly call and
shoving the tea-things about that was too much
for her patience. She doesn't know, you see, that
I'm after all a decent girl. She simply made up
her mind on the spot that I'm a very bad case."
" I couldn't stand the way she treated you, and
that was what I had to say to her," Owen returned.
" She's simple and slow r , but she's not a fool : I
think she treated me on the whole very well."
Fleda remembered how Mrs. Gereth had treated
Mona when the Brigstocks came down to Poynton.
Owen evidently thought her painfully perverse.
"It was you who carried it off; you behaved like
a brick. And so did I, I consider. If you only
knew the difficulty I had! I told her you were
the noblest and straightest of women."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 197
" That can hardly have removed her impression
that there are things I put you up to."
"It didn't," Owen replied with candour. "She
said our relation, yours and mine, isn't innocent."
" What did she mean by that ? "
"As you may suppose, I particularly inquired.
Do you know what she had the cheek to tell me ? "
Owen asked. " She didn't better it much. She
said she meant that it's excessively unnatural."
Fleda considered afresh. "Well, it is!" she
brought out at last.
" Then, upon my honour, it's only you who make
it so ! " Her perversity was distinctly too much
for him. " I mean you make it so by the way you
keep me off."
"Have I kept you off to-day?" Fleda sadly
shook her head, raising her arms a little and
Her gesture of resignation gave him a pretext
for catching at her hand, but before he could take
it she had put it behind her. They had been
seated together on Maggie's single sofa, and her
movement brought her to her feet while Owen,
looking at her reproachfully, leaned back in dis-
couragement. "What good does it do me to be
here when I find you only a stone ? "
She met his eyes with all the tenderness she had
not yet uttered, and she had not known till this
moment how great was the accumulation. " Per-
haps, after all," she risked, " there may be even in
a stone still some little help for you."
198 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Owen sat there a minute staring at her. " Ah,
you're beautiful, more beautiful than any one," he
broke out, " but I'll be hanged if I can ever under-
stand you ! On Tuesday, at your father's, you
were beautiful as beautiful, just before I left, as
you are at this instant. But the next day, when
I went back, I found it had apparently meant
nothing ; and now again that you let me come
here and you shine at me like an angel, it doesn't
bring you an inch nearer to saying what I want
you to say." He remained a moment longer in
the same position ; then he jerked himself up.
"What I want you to say is that you like me
what I want you to say is that you pity me." He
sprang up and came to her. " What I want you
to say is that you'll save me ! "
Fleda hesitated. "Why do you need saving
when you announced to me just now that you're
a free man?"
He too hesitated, but he was not checked. " It's
just for the reason that I'm free. Don't you know
what I mean, Miss Vetch ? I want you to marry
Fleda, at this, put out her hand in charity ; she
held his own, which quickly grasped it a moment,
and if he had described her as shining at him it
may be assumed that she shone all the more in
her deep, still smile. " Let me hear a little more
about your freedom first," she said. " I gather that
Mrs. Brigstock was not wholly satisfied with the
way you disposed of her question."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 199
" I dare say she wasn't. But the less she's satis-
fied the more I'm free."
" What bearing have her feelings, pray ? " Fleda
" Why, Mona's much worse than her mother, you
know. She wants much more to give me up."
" Then why doesn't she do it ? "
" She will, as soon as her mother gets home and
" Tells her what ? " Fleda inquired.
" Why, that I'm in love \v\i}\you /"
Fleda debated. " Are you so very sure she
will ? "
" Certainly I'm sure, with all the evidence I
already have. That will finish her ! " Owen
This made his companion thoughtful again.
" Can you take such pleasure in her being * finished '
a poor girl you've once loved ? "
Owen waited long enough to take in the ques-
tion ; then with a serenity startling even to her
knowledge of his nature, " I don't think I can have
really loved her, you know," he replied.
Fleda broke into a laugh which gave him a
surprise as visible as the emotion it represented.
" Then how am I to know that you ' really ' love
anybody else ? "
" Oh, I'll show you that ! " said Owen.
" I must take it on trust," the girl pursued.
"And what if Mona doesn't give you up?" she
200 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Owen was baffled but a few seconds ; he had
thought of everything. " Why, that's just where
you come in."
" To save you ? I see. You mean I must get
rid of her for you." His blankness showed for a
little that he felt the chill of her cold logic ; but as
she waited for his rejoinder she knew to which of
them it cost most. He gasped a minute, and that
gave her time to say : " You see, Mr. Owen, how
impossible it is to talk of such things yet ! "
Like lightning he had grasped her arm. " You
mean you will talk of them ? " Then as he began
to take the flood of assent from her eyes : " You
will listen to me ? Oh, you dear, you dear when,
when ? "
" Ah, when it isn't mere misery ! " The words
had broken from her in a sudden loud cry, and
what next happened was that the very sound of
her pain upset her. She heard her own true note ;
she turned short away from him ; in a moment she
had burst into sobs ; in another his arms were
round her ; the next she had let herself go so far
that even Mrs. Gereth might have seen it. He
clasped her, and she gave herself she poured out
her tears on his breast. Something prisoned and
pent throbbed and gushed ;' something deep and
sweet surged up something that came from far
within and far off, that had begun with the sight of
him in his indifference and had never had rest
since then. The surrender was short, but the relief
was long : she felt his warm lips on her face and
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 201
his arms tighten with his full divination. What
she did, what she had done, she scarcely knew : she
only was aware, as she broke from him again, of
what had taken place in his panting soul. What
had taken place was that, with the click of a spring,
he saw. He had cleared the high wall at a bound ;
they were together without a veil. She had not a
shred of a secret left ; it was as if a whirlwind had
come and gone, laying low the great false front
that she had built up stone by stone. The strangest
thing of all was the momentary sense of desolation.
" Ah, all the while you cared? " Owen read the
truth with a wonder so great that it was visibly
almost a sadness, a terror caused by his sudden
perception of where the impossibility was not.
That made it all perhaps elsewhere.
" I cared, I cared, I cared ! " Fleda moaned
it as defiantly as if she were confessing a misdeed.
"How couldn't I care? But you mustn't, you
must never, never ask ! It isn't for us to talk
about," she insisted. " Don't speak of it, don't
speak ! "
It was easy indeed not to speak when the diffi-
culty was to find words. He clasped his hands
before her as he might have clasped them at an
altar ; his pressed palms shook together while he
held his breath and while she stilled herself in the
effort to come round again to the real and the right.
He assisted this effort, soothing her into a seat
with a touch as light as if she had really been
something sacred. She sank into a chair and he
202 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
dropped before her on his knees ; she fell back
with closed eyes and he buried his face in her lap.
There was no way to thank her but this act of
prostration, which lasted, in silence, till she laid
consenting hands on him, touched his head and
stroked it, held it in her tenderness till he acknow-
ledged his long density. He made the avowal
seem only his made her, when she rose again,
raise him at last, softly, as if from the abasement of
shame. If in each other's eyes now, however, they
saw the truth, this truth, to Fleda, looked harder
even than before all the harder that when, at the
very moment she recognised it, he murmured to
her ecstatically, in fresh possession of her hands,
which he drew up to his breast, holding them tight
there with both his own : " I'm saved, I'm saved
I am ! I'm ready for anything. I have your word.
Come ! " he cried, as if from the sight of a response
slower than he needed, and in the tone he so often
had of a great boy at a great game.
She had once more disengaged herself with the
private vow that he shouldn't yet touch her again.
It was all too horribly soon her sense of this was
rapidly surging back. " We mustn't talk, we
mustn't talk ; we must wait ! " she intensely insisted.
" I don't know what you mean by your freedom ; I
don't see it, I don't feel it. Where is it yet, where,
your freedom ? If it's real there's plenty of time,
and if it isn't there's more than enough. I hate
myself," she protested, " for having anything to say
about her : it's like waiting for dead men's shoes !
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 203
What business is it of mine what she does ? She
has her own trouble and her own plan. It's too
hideous to watch her and count on her ! "
Owen's face, at this, showed a reviving dread, the
fear of some darksome process of her mind. "If
you speak for yourself I can understand. But why
is it hideous for me ? "
" Oh, I mean for myself! " Fleda said impatiently.
" / watch her, 7 count on her : how can I do
anything else? If I count on her to let me defi-
nitely know how we stand I do nothing in life but
what she herself has led straight up to. I never
thought of asking you to ' get rid of her ' for me,
and I never would have spoken to you if I hadn't
held that I am rid of her, that she has backed out
of the whole thing. Didn't she do so from the
moment she began to put it off? I had already
applied for the licence ; the very invitations were
half addressed. Who but she, all of a sudden,
demanded an unnatural wait? It was none of
my doing ; I had never dreamed of anything but
coming up to the scratch." Owen grew more and
more lucid and more confident of the effect of his
lucidity. " She called it ' taking a stand,' to see
what mother would do. I told her mother would
do what I would make her do ; and to that she
replied that she would like to see me make her
first. I said I would arrange that everything
should be all right, and she said she really pre-
ferred to arrange it herself. It was a flat refusal to
trust me in the smallest degree. Why then had
204 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
she pretended so tremendously to care for me?
And of course at present," said Owen, " she trusts
me, if possible, still less."
Fleda paid this statement the homage of a
minute's muteness. "As to that, naturally, she
" Why on earth has she reason ? " Then, as his
companion, moving away, simply threw up her
hands, " I never looked at you not to call looking
till she had regularly driven me to it," he went
on. " I know what I'm about. I do assure you
I'm all right ! "
" You're not all right you're all wrong ! " Fleda
cried in despair. " You mustn't stay here, you
mustn't ! " she repeated with clear decision. " You
make me say dreadful things, and I feel as if I
made you say them." But before he could reply
she took it up in another tone. " Why in the
world, if everything had changed, didn't you break
" I ? " The inquiry seemed to have moved
him to stupefaction. "Can you ask me that
question when I only wanted to please you?
Didn't you seem to show me, in your wonderful
way, that that was exactly how ? I didn't break
off just on purpose to leave it to Mona. I didn't
break off so that there shouldn't be a thing to be
said against me."
The instant after her challenge Fleda had faced
him again in self-reproof. " There isn't a thing to
be said against you, and I don't know what non-
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 205
sense you make me talk ! You have pleased me,
and you've been right and good, and it's the only
comfort, and you must go. Everything must come
from Mona, and if it doesn't come we've said
entirely too much. You must leave me alone
" Forever ? " Owen gasped.
" I mean unless everything is different."
" Everything is different, when I know you ! "
Fleda winced at his knowledge ; she made a
wild gesture which seemed to whirl it out of the
room. The mere allusion was like another em-
brace. " You don't know me you don't and you
must go and wait ! You mustn't break down at
He looked about him and took up his hat : it
was as if in spite of frustration he had got the
essence of what he wanted and could afford to
agree with her to the extent of keeping up the
forms. He covered her with his fine, simple smile,
but made no other approach. " Oh, I'm so awfully
happy ! " he exclaimed.
She hesitated : she would only be impeccable
even though she should have to be sententious.
" You'll be happy if you're perfect ! " she risked.
He laughed out at this, and she wondered if,
with a new-born acuteness, he saw the absurdity
of her speech and that no one was happy just
because no one could be what she so easily pre-
scribed. "I don't pretend to be perfect, but I
shall find a letter to-night ! "
206 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" So much the better, if it's the kind of one you
desire." That was the most she could say, and
having made it sound as dry as possible she lapsed
into a silence so pointed as to deprive him of all
pretext for not leaving her. Still, nevertheless, he
stood there, playing with his hat and filling the
long pause with a strained and anxious smile. He
wished to obey her thoroughly, to appear not to
presume on any advantage he had won from her ;
but there was clearly something he longed for
beside. While he showed this by hanging on she
thought of two other things. One of these was
that his countenance, after all, failed to bear out
his description of his bliss. As for the other, it
had no sooner come into her head than she found
it seated, in spite of her resolution, on her lips. It
took the form of an inconsequent question. " When
did you say Mrs. Brigstock was to have gone
back ? "
Owen stared. "To Waterbath? She was to
have spent the night in town, don't you know?
But when she left me after our talk I said to myself
that she would take an evening train. I know I
made her want to get home."
" Where did you separate ? " Fleda asked.
"At the West Kensington station she was
going to Victoria. I had walked with her there,
and our talk was all on the way."
Fleda pondered a moment. " If she did go back
that night you would have heard from Waterbath
by this time."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 207
" I don't know," said Owen. " I thought I might
hear this morning."
"She can't have gone back," Fleda declared.
" Mona would have written on the spot."
" Oh yes, she will have written bang off! " Owen
Fleda thought again. " So that, even in the event
of her mother's not having got home till the
morning you would have had your letter at the
latest to-day. You see she has had plenty of
Owen hesitated ; then " Oh, she's all right ! " he
laughed. " I go by Mrs. Brigstock's certain effect
on her the effect of the temper the old lady
showed when we parted. Do you know what she
asked me ? " he sociably continued. " She asked
me in a kind of nasty manner if I supposed you
' really ' cared anything about me. Of course I
told her I supposed you didn't not a solitary rap.
How could I ever suppose you do, with your
extraordinary ways? It doesn't matter; I could
see she thought I lied."
"You should have told her, you know, that I
had seen you in town only that one time," Fleda
" By Jove, I did for you ! It was only for you."
Something in this touched the girl so that for
a moment she could not trust herself to speak.
" You're an honest man," she said at last. She had
gone to the door and opened it. " Good-bye."
Even yet, however, Owen hung back. " But even
208 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
if there's no letter " he began. He began, but
there he left it.
" You mean even if she doesn't let you off? Ah,
you ask me too much ! " Fleda spoke from the tiny
hall, where she had taken refuge between the old
barometer and the old mackintosh. "There are
things too utterly for yourselves alone. How can
I tell ? What do I know ? Good-bye, good-bye !
If she doesn't let you off it will be because she is
attached to you."
" She's not, she's not : there's nothing in it !
Doesn't a fellow know ? except with you ! " Owen
ruefully added. With this he came out of the
room, lowering his voice to secret supplication,
pleading with her really to meet him on the ground
of the negation of Mona. It was this betrayal of
his need of support and sanction that made her
retreat, harden herself in the effort to save what
might remain of all she had given, given probably
for nothing. The very vision of him as he thus
morally clung to her was the vision of a weakness
somewhere in the core of his bloom, a blessed
manly weakness of which, if she had only the valid
right, it would be all a sweetness to take care. She
faintly sickened, however, with the sense that
there was as yet no valid right poor Owen
could give. " You can take it from my honour,
you know," he painfully brought out, " that she
Fleda had stood clutching the knob of Maggie's
little painted stair-rail ; she took, on the stairs, a
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 209
step backward. " Why then doesn't she prove it
in the only clear way ? "
" She has proved it. Will you believe it if you
see the letter ? "
" I don't want to see any letter," said Fleda.
" You'll miss your train."
Facing him, waving him away, she had taken
another upward step ; but he sprang to the side of
the stairs, and brought his hand, above the banister,
down hard on her wrist. " Do you mean to tell me
that I must marry a woman I hate ? "
From her step she looked down into his raised
face. " Ah, you see it's not true that you're free ! "
She seemed almost to exult. " It's not true, it's
not true ! "
He only, at this, like a buffeting swimmer, gave
a shake of his head and repeated his question :
" Do you mean to tell me I must marry such a
woman ? "
Fleda hesitated ; he held her fast. " No. Any-
thing is better than that."
" Then, in God's name, what must I do ? "
" You must settle that with Mona. You mustn't
break faith. Anything is better than that. You
must at any rate be utterly sure. She must love
you how can she help it? / wouldn't give you
up ! " said Fleda. She spoke in broken bits,
panting out her words. "The great thing is to
keep faith. Where is a man if he doesn't? If he
doesn't he may be so cruel. So cruel, so cruel, so
cruel ! " Fleda repeated. " I couldn't have a hand in
2io THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
that, you know : that's my position that's mine.
You offered her marriage. It's a tremendous thing
for her." Then looking at him another moment,
" / wouldn't give you up ! " she said again. He
still had hold of her arm ; she took in his blank
dread. With a quick dip of her face she reached
his hand with her lips, pressing them to the back of
it with a force that doubled the force of her words.
" Never, never, never ! " she cried ; and before he
could succeed in seizing her she had turned and,
flashing up the stairs, got away from him even
faster than she had got away at Ricks.
TEN days after his visit she received a com-
munication from Mrs. Gereth a telegram of eight
words, exclusive of signature and date. " Come
up immediately and stay with me here" it was
characteristically sharp, as Maggie said ; but, as
Maggie added, it was also characteristically kind.
" Here " was an hotel in London, and Maggie had
embraced a condition of life which already began
to produce in her some yearning for hotels in
London. She would have responded in an instant,
and she was surprised that her sister seemed to
hesitate. Fleda's hesitation, which lasted but an
hour, was expressed in that young lady's own
mind by the reflection that in obeying her friend's
summons she shouldn't know what she should be
" in for." Her friend's summons, however, was but
another name for her friend's appeal ; and Mrs.
Gereth's bounty had laid her under obligations
more sensible than any reluctance. In the event :
that is at the end of her hour she testified to her
gratitude by taking the train and to her mistrust
by not taking her luggage. She went as if she
had gone up for the day. In the train, however,
212 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
she had another thoughtful hour, during which it
was her mistrust that mainly deepened. She felt
as if for ten days she had sat in darkness, looking
to the east for a dawn that had not yet glimmered.
Her mind had lately been less occupied with Mrs.
Gereth ; it had been so exceptionally occupied
with Mona. If the sequel was to justify Owen's
prevision of Mrs. Brigstock's action upon her
daughter, this action was at the end of a week as
much a mystery as ever. The stillness, all round,
had been exactly what Fleda desired, but it gave
her for the time a deep sense of failure, the sense
of a sudden drop from a height at which she
had had all things beneath her. She had nothing
beneath her now; she herself was at the bottom
of the heap. No sign had reached her from Owen
poor Owen who had clearly no news to give
about his precious letter from Waterbath. If Mrs.
Brigstock had hurried back to obtain that this
letter should be written Mrs. Brigstock might then
have spared herself so great an inconvenience.
Owen had been silent for the best of all reasons
the reason that he had had nothing in life to say.
If the letter had not been written he would simply
have had to introduce some large qualification into
his account of his freedom. He had left his young
friend under her refusal to listen to him until he
should be able, on the contrary, to extend that
picture ; and his present submission was all in
keeping with the rigid honesty that his young
friend had prescribed.
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 213
It was this that formed the element through
which Mona loomed large ; Fleda had enough
imagination, a fine enough feeling for life, to be
impressed with such an image of successful im-
mobility. The massive maiden at Waterbath was
successful from the moment she could entertain
her resentments as if they had been poor relations
who needn't put her to expense. She was a
magnificent dead weight ; there was something
positive and portentous in her quietude. "What
game are they all playing ? " poor Fleda could
only ask ; for she had an intimate conviction that
Owen was now under the roof of his betrothed.
That was stupefying if he really hated Mona ; and
if he didn't really hate her what had brought him
to Raphael Road and to Maggie's ? Fleda had no
real light, but she felt that to account for the absence
of any result of their last meeting would take a
supposition of the full sacrifice to charity that she
had held up before him. If he had gone to
Waterbath it had been simply because he had to
go. She had as good as told him that he would
have to go ; that this was an inevitable incident of
his keeping perfect faith faith so literal that the
smallest subterfuge would always be a reproach to
him. When she tried to remember that it was for
herself he was taking his risk she felt how weak a
way that was of expressing Mona's supremacy.
There would be no need of keeping him up if there
was nothing to keep him up to. Her eyes grew
wan as she discerned in the impenetrable air that
214 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Mona's thick outline never wavered an inch. She
wondered fitfully what Mrs. Gereth had by this
time made of it, and reflected with a strange
elation that the sand on which the mistress of
Ricks had built a momentary triumph was quaking
beneath the surface. As The Morning Post still
held its peace she would be of course more con-
fident ; but the hour was at hand at which Owen
would have absolutely to do either one thing or the
other. To keep perfect faith was to inform against
his mother, and to hear the police at her door
would be Mrs. Gereth's awakening. How much
she was beguiled Fleda could see from her having
been for a whole month quite as deep and dark as
Mona. She had left her young friend alone be-
cause of the certitude, cultivated at Ricks, that
Owen had done the opposite. He had done the
opposite indeed, but much good had that brought
forth ! To have sent for her now, Fleda felt, was
from this point of view wholly natural : she had
sent for her to show at last how much she had
scored. If, however, Owen was really at Waterbath
the refutation of that boast was easy.
Fleda found Mrs. Gereth in modest apartments
and with an air of fatigue in her distinguished face,
a sign, as she privately remarked, of the strain of
that effort to be discreet of which she herself had
been having the benefit. It was a constant feature
of their relation that this lady could make Fleda
blench a little, and that the effect proceeded from
the intense pressure of her confidence. If the
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 215
confidence had been heavy even when the girl, in
the early flush of devotion, had been able to feel
herself most responsive, it drew her heart into her
mouth now that she had reserves and conditions,
now that she couldn't simplify with the same bold
hand as her protectress. In the very brightening
of the tired look and at the moment of their
embrace Fleda felt on her shoulders the return of
the load ; whereupon her spirit quailed as she asked
herself what she had brought up from her trusted
seclusion to support it. Mrs. Gereth's free manner
always made a joke of weakness, and there was in
such a welcome a richness, a kind of familiar
nobleness that suggested shame to a harried con-
science. Something had happened, she could see,
and she could also see, in the bravery that seemed
to announce it had changed everything, a formid-
able assumption that what had happened was
what a healthy young woman must like. The
absence of luggage had made this young woman
feel meagre even before her companion, taking
in the bareness at a second glance, exclaimed
upon it and roundly rebuked her. Of course she
had expected her to stay.
Fleda thought best to show bravery too and to
show it from the first. " What you expected, dear
Mrs. Gereth, is exactly what I came up to ascer-
tain. It struck me as right to do that first.
Right, I mean, to ascertain without making
" Then you'll be so good as to make them on the
2i6 THE SPOILS OF POYNTOX
spot ! " Mrs. Gereth was most emphatic. " You're
going abroad with me."
Fleda wondered, but she also smiled. " To-night
to-morrow ? "
" In as few days as possible. That's all that's
left for me now." Fleda's heart, at this, gave a
bound ; she wondered to what particular difference
in Mrs. Gereth's situation as last known to her it
was an allusion. " I've made my plan," her friend
continued : " I go for at least a year. We shall go
straight to Florence ; we can manage there. I of
course don't look to you, however," she added, " to
stay with me all that time. That will require to
be settled. Owen will have to join us as soon as
possible ; he may not be quite ready to get off with
us. But I'm convinced it's quite the right thing to
go. It will make a good change ; it will put in a
Fleda listened ; she was deeply mystified. " How
kind you are to me ! " she presently said. The
picture suggested so many questions that she
scarcely knew which to ask first. She took one at
a venture. " You really have it from Mr. Gereth
that he'll give us his company ? "
If Mr. Gereth's mother smiled in response to
this Fleda knew that her smile was a tacit criticism
of such a form of reference to her son. Fleda
habitually spoke of him as Mr. Owen, and it was
a part of her present vigilance to appear to have
relinquished that right. Mrs. Gereth's manner
confirmed a certain impression of her pretending
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 217
to more than she felt ; her very first words had
conveyed it, and it reminded Fleda of the conscious
courage with which, weeks before, the lady had met
her visitor's first startled stare at the clustered
spoils of Poynton. It was her practice to take
immensely for granted whatever she wished. " Oh,
if you'll answer for him, it will do quite as well ! "
she said. Then she put her hands on the girl's
shoulders and held them at arm's length, as if to
shake them a little, while in the depths of her
shining eyes Fleda discovered something obscure
and unquiet. "You bad, false thing, why didn't
you tell me ? " Her tone softened her harshness,
and her visitor had never had such a sense of her
indulgence. Mrs. Gereth could show patience ; it
was a part of the general bribe, but it was also
like the handing in of a heavy bill before which
Fleda could only fumble in a penniless pocket.
" You must perfectly have known at Ricks, and
yet you practically denied it. That's why I call
you bad and false ! " It was apparently also why
she again almost roughly kissed her.
" I think that before I answer you I had better
know what you're talking about," Fleda said.
Mrs. Gereth looked at her with a slight increase
of hardness. " You've done everything you need
for modesty, my dear ! If he's sick with love of
you, you haven't had to wait for me to inform
Fleda hesitated. " Has he informed you, dear
218 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Dear Mrs. Gereth smiled sweetly. " How could
he when our situation is such that he communi-
cates with me only through you and that you are
so tortuous you conceal everything ? "
" Didn't he answer the note in which you let
him know that I was in town ? " Fleda asked.
" He answered it sufficiently by rushing off on
the spot to see you."
Mrs. Gereth met that allusion with a prompt
firmness that made almost insolently light of any
ground of complaint, and Fleda's own sense of
responsibility was now so vivid that all resent-
ments turned comparatively pale. She had no
heart to produce a grievance ; she could only, left
as she was with the little mystery on her hands,
produce after a moment a question. " How then do
you come to know that your son has ever thought "
" That he would give his ears to get you ? "
Mrs. Gereth broke in. " I had a visit from Mrs.
Fleda opened her eyes. "She went down to
Ricks ? "
" The day after she had found Owen at your
feet. She knows everything."
Fleda shook her head sadly : she was more
startled than she cared to show. This odd journey
of Mrs. Brigstock's, which, with a simplicity equal
for once to Owen's, she had not divined, now
struck her as having produced the hush of the
last ten days. " There are things she doesn't
know ! " she presently exclaimed.
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 219
" She knows he would do anything to marry
" He hasn't told her so," Fleda said.
" No, but he has told you. That's better still ! "
laughed Mrs. Gereth. " My dear child," she went
on with an air that affected the girl as a- sort of
blind profanity, " don't try to make yourself out
better than you are. / know what you are
I haven't lived with you so much for nothing.
You're not quite a saint in heaven yet. Lord,
what a creature you'd have thought me in my
good time ! But you do like it fortunately,
you idiot. You're pale with your passion, you
sweet thing. That's exactly what I wanted to
see. I can't for the life of me think where the
shame comes in." Then with a finer significance,
a look that seemed to Fleda strange she added :
" It's all right."
" I've seen him but twice," said Fleda.
" But twice ? " Mrs. Gereth still smiled.
" On the occasion, at papa's, that Mrs. Brig-
stock ' told you of, and one day, since then, down
" Well, those things are between yourselves,
and you seem to me both poor creatures at best."
Mrs. Gereth spoke with a rich humour which
tipped with light for an instant the real conviction.
" I don't know what you've got in your veins.
You absurdly exaggerate the difficulties. But
enough is as good as a feast, and when once I
get you abroad together ! " She checked herself
220 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
as if from excess of meaning ; what might happen
when she should get them abroad together was
to be gathered only from the way she slowly
rubbed her hands.
The gesture, however, made the promise so defi-
nite that for a moment her companion was almost
beguiled. But there was nothing to account as
yet for the wealth of Mrs. Gereth's certitude :
the visit of the lady of Waterbath appeared
but half to explain it. " Is it permitted to be
surprised," Fleda deferentially asked, "at Mrs.
Brigstock's thinking it would help her to see
you ? "
" It's never permitted to be surprised at the
aberrations of born fools," said Mrs. Gereth. "If
a cow should try to calculate, that's the kind of
happy thought she'd have. Mrs. Brigstock came
down to plead with me."
Fleda mused a moment. " That's what she
came to do with me" she then honestly returned.
" But what did she expect to get of you, with your
opposition so marked from the first ? "
" She didn't know I want you t my dear. It's
a wonder, with all my violence the gross publicity
I've given my desires. But she's as stupid as an
owl she doesn't feel your charm."
Fleda felt herself flush slightly, but she tried
to smile. "Did you tell her all about it? Did
you make her understand you want me ? "
" For what do you take me ? I wasn't such a
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 221
"So as not to aggravate Mona?" Fleda sug-
" So as not to aggravate Mona, naturally.
We've had a narrow course to steer, but thank
God we're at last in the open ! "
"What do you call the open, Mrs. Gereth?"
Fleda demanded. Then as that lady faltered :
" Do you know where Mr. Owen is to-day ? "
Mrs. Gereth stared. " Do you mean he's at
Waterbath ? Well, that's your own affair. I can
bear it if you can."
" Wherever he is I can bear it," Fleda said.
4< But I haven't the least idea where he is."
" Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself ! '
Mrs. Gereth broke out with a change of note
that showed how deep a passion underlay every-
thing she had said. The poor woman, catching
her companion's hand, however, the next moment,
as if to retract something of this harshness, spoke
more patiently. " Don't you understand, Fleda,
how immensely, how devotedly I've trusted you ! "
Her tone was indeed a supplication.
Fleda was infinitely shaken ; she was silent a
little. "Yes, I understand. Did she go to you
to complain of me ? "
" She came to see what she could do. She had
been tremendously upset the day before by what
had taken place at your father's, and she had
posted down to Ricks on the inspiration of the
moment. She hadn't meant it on leaving home ;
it was the sight of you closeted there with Owen
222 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
that had suddenly determined her. The whole
story, she said, was written in your two faces :
she spoke as if she had never seen such an
exhibition. Owen was on the brink, but there
might still be time to save him, and it was with
this idea she had bearded me in my den. * What
won't a mother do, you know ? ' that was one of
the things she said. What wouldn't a mother do
indeed? I thought I had sufficiently shown her
what ! She tried to break me down by an appeal
to my good-nature, as she called it, and from the
moment she opened on you> from the moment she
denounced Owen's falsity, I was as good-natured
as she could wish. I understood that it was a plea
for mere mercy, that you and he between you were
killing her child. Of course I was delighted that
Mona should be killed, but I was studiously kind
to Mrs. Brigstock. At the same time I was honest,
I didn't pretend to anything I couldn't feel. I
asked her why the marriage hadn't taken place
months ago, when Owen was perfectly ready ;
and I showed her how completely that fatuous
mistake on Mona's part cleared his responsibility.
It was she who had killed him it was she who
had destroyed his affection, his illusions. Did she
want him now when he was estranged, when he
was disgusted, when he had a sore grievance?
She reminded me that Mona had a sore grievance
too, but she admitted that she hadn't come to me
to speak of that. What she had come to me for
was not to get the old things back, but simply to
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 223
get Owen. What she wanted was that I would,
in simple pity, see fair play. Owen had been
awfully bedevilled she didn't call it that, she
called it * misled ' ; but it was simply you who had
bedevilled him. He would be all right still if I
would see that you were out of the way. She
asked me point-blank if it was possible I could
want him to marry you."
Fleda had listened in unbearable pain and grow-
ing terror, as if her interlocutress, stone by stone,
were piling some fatal mass upon her breast. She
had the sense of being buried alive, smothered in
the mere expansion of another will ; and now
there was but one gap left to the air. A single
word, she felt, might close it, and with the question
that came to her lips as Mrs. Gereth paused she
seemed to herself to ask, in cold dread, for her
doom. " What did you say to that ? " she inquired.
" I was embarrassed, for I saw my danger the
danger of her going home and saying to Mona
that I was backing you up. It had been a bliss to
learn that Owen had really turned to you, but my
joy didn't put me off my guard. I reflected in-
tensely for a few seconds ; then I saw my issue."
" Your issue ? " Fleda murmured.
" I remembered how you had tied my hands
about saying a word to Owen."
Fleda wondered. " And did you remember.- the
little letter that, with your hands tied, you still
succeeded in writing to him ? "
"Perfectly; my little letter was a model of
224 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
reticence. What I remembered was all that in those
few words I forbade myself to say. I had been an
angel of delicacy I had effaced myself like a saint.
It was not for me to have done all that and then
figure to such a woman as having done the opposite.
Besides, it was none of her business."
"Is that what you said to her ? " Fleda asked.
" I said to her that her question revealed a
total misconception of the nature of my present
relations with my son. I said to her that I had
no relations with him at all and that nothing had
passed between us for months. I said to her that
my hands were spotlessly clean of any attempt
to make up to you. I said to her that I had
taken from Poynton what I had a right to take,
but had done nothing else in the world. I was
determined that if I had bit my tongue off to
oblige you I would at least have the righteousness
that my sacrifice gave me."
" And was Mrs. Brigstock satisfied with your
answer ? "
" She was visibly relieved."
"It was fortunate for you," said Fleda, " that
she's apparently not aware of the manner in which,
almost under her nose, you advertised me to him
Mrs. Gereth appeared to recall that scene ; she
smiled with a serenity remarkably effective as
showing how cheerfully used she had grown to
invidious allusions to it. " How should she be
aware of it ? "
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 225
" She would if Owen had described your outbreak
" Yes, but he didn't describe it. All his instinct
was to conceal it from Mona. He wasn't conscious,
but he was already in love with you ! " Mrs. Gereth
Fleda shook her head wearily. " No I was only
in love with him ! "
Here was a faint illumination with which Mrs.
Gereth instantly mingled her fire. " You dear old
wretch ! " she exclaimed ; and she again, with
ferocity, embraced her young friend.
Fleda submitted like a sick animal : she would
submit to everything now. "Then what further
passed ? "
"Only that she left me thinking she had got
"And what had she got?"
"Nothing but her luncheon. But / got every-
" Everything ? " Fleda quavered.
Mrs. Gereth, struck apparently by something in
her tone, looked at her from a tremendous height.
" Don't fail me now ! "
It sounded so like a menace that, with a full
divination at last, the poor girl fell weakly into a
chair. " What on earth have you done ? "
Mrs. Gereth stood there in all the glory of a
great stroke. "I've settled you." She filled the
room, to Fleda's scared vision, with the glare of
her magnificence. " I've sent everything back."
226 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" Everything ? " Fleda gasped.
" To the smallest snuff-box. The last load went
yesterday. The same people did it. Poor little
Ricks is empty." Then as if, for a crowning
splendour, to check all deprecation, " They're yours,
you goose ! " Mrs. Gereth concluded, holding up
her handsome head and rubbing her white hands.
Fleda saw that there were tears in her deep eyes.
SHE was slow to take in the announcement,
but when she had done so she felt it to be more
than her cup of bitterness would hold. Her
bitterness was her anxiety, the taste of which
suddenly sickened her. What had she on the
spot become but a traitress to her friend ?
The treachery increased with the view of the
friend's motive, a motive superb as a tribute to her
value. Mrs. Gereth had wished to make sure of
her and had reasoned that there would be no such
way as by a large appeal to her honour. If it be
true, as men have declared, that the sense of honour
is weak in women, some of the bearings of this
stroke might have thrown a light on the question.
What was now at all events put before Fleda was
that she had been made sure of, for the greatness
of the surrender imposed an obligation as great.
There was an expression she had heard used by
young men with whom she danced : the only word
to fit Mrs. Gereth's intention was that Mrs. Gereth
had designed to " fetch " her. It was a calculated,
it was a crushing bribe ; it looked her in the eyes
228 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
and said simply: "That's what I do for you!"
What Fleda was to do in return required no point-
ing out. The sense at present of how little she
had done made her almost cry aloud with pain ;
but her first endeavour in face of the fact was to
keep such a cry from reaching her companion.
How little she had done Mrs. Gereth didn't yet
know, and possibly there would be still some way
of turning round before the discovery. On her
own side too Fleda had almost made one : she had
known she was wanted, but she had not after all
conceived how magnificently much. She had
been treated by her friend's act as a conscious
prize, but what made her a conscious prize was
only the power the act itself imputed to her. As
high, bold diplomacy it dazzled and carried her off
her feet. She admired the noble risk of it, a risk
Mrs. Gereth had faced for the utterly poor creature
that the girl now felt herself. The change it
instantly wrought in her was moreover extraordin-
ary : it transformed at a touch her emotion on
the subject of concessions. A few weeks earlier
she had jumped at the duty of pleading for them,
practically quarrelling with the lady of Ricks for
her refusal to restore what she had taken. She
had been sore with the wrong to Owen, she had
bled with the wounds of Poynton ; now, however,
as she heard of the replenishment of the void that
had so haunted her, she came as near sounding an
alarm as if from the deck of a ship she had seen a
person she loved jump into the sea. Mrs. Gereth
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 229
had become in a flash the victim ; poor little Ricks
had been laid bare in a night. If Fleda's feeling
about the old things had taken precipitate form the
form would have been a frantic command. It was
indeed for mere want of breath that she didn't
shout : " Oh, stop them it's no use ; bring them
back it's too late ! " And what most kept her
breathless was her companion's very grandeur.
Fleda distinguished as never before the purity of
such a passion ; it made Mrs. Gereth august and
almost sublime. It was absolutely unselfish she
cared nothing for mere possession. She thought
solely and incorruptibly of what was best for the
things ; she had surrendered them to the presump-
tive care of the one person of her acquaintance who
felt about them as she felt herself, and whose long
lease of the future would be the nearest approach
that could be compassed to committing them to a
museum. Now it was indeed that Fleda knew
what rested on her ; now it was also that she
measured as if for the first time Mrs. Gereth's view
of the natural influence of a fine acquisition. She
had adopted the idea of blowing away the last
doubt of what her young friend would gain, of
making good still more than she was obliged to
make it the promise of weeks before. It was one
thing for the girl to have heard that in a certain
event restitution would be made ; it was another
for her to see the condition, with a noble trust,
treated in advance as performed, and to be able to
feel that she should have only to open a door to
230 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
find every old piece in every old corner. To have
played such a card was therefore, for Mrs. Gereth,
practically to have won the game. Fleda had
certainly to recognise that, so far as the theory of
the matter went, the game had been won. Oh, she
had been made sure of!
She couldn't, however, succeed for so very many
minutes in deferring her exposure. "Why didn't
you wait, dearest ? Ah, why didn't you wait ? "
if that inconsequent appeal kept rising to her lips
to be cut short before it was spoken, this was only
because at first the humility of gratitude helped
her to gain time, enabled her to present herself
very honestly as too overcome to be clear. She
kissed her companion's hands, she did homage
at her feet, she murmured soft snatches of praise,
and yet in the midst of it all was conscious that
what she really showed most was the wan despair
at her heart. She saw Mrs. Gereth's glimpse of
this despair suddenly widen, heard the quick chill
of her voice pierce through the false courage of
endearments. "Do you mean to tell me at such
an hour as this that you've really lost him ? "
The tone of the question made the idea a possi-
bility for which Fleda had nothing from this mo-
ment but terror. " I don't know, Mrs. Gereth ;
how can I say?" she asked. "I've not seen him
for so long ; as I told you just now, I don't even
know where he is. That's by no fault of his," she
hurried on : " he would have been with me every
day if I had consented. But I made him under-
THE' SPOILS OF POYNTON 231
stand, the last time, that I'll receive him again only
when he's able to show me that his release has
been complete and definite. Oh, he can't yet,
don't you see? and that's why he hasn't been
back. It's far better than his coming only that we
should both be miserable. When he does come
he'll be in a better position. He'll be tremendously
moved by the splendid thing you've done. I know
you wish me to feel that you've done it as much
for me as for Owen, but your having done it for me
is just what will delight him most! When he
hears of it," said Fleda, in desperate optimism,
" when he hears of it " There indeed, regretting
her advance, she quite broke down. She was
wholly powerless to say what Owen would do
when he heard of it. " I don't know what he won't
make of you and how he won't hug you ! " she had
to content herself with lamely declaring. She had
drawn Mrs. Gereth to a sofa with a vague instinct
of pacifying her and still, after all, gaining time ;
but it was a position in which her great duped
benefactress, portentously patient again during this
demonstration, looked far from inviting a "hug."
Fleda found herself tricking out the situation with
artificial flowers, trying to talk even herself into
the fancy that Owen, whose name she now made
simple and sweet, might come in upon them at any
moment. She felt an immense need to be under-
stood and justified ; she averted her face in dread
from all that she might have to be forgiven. She
pressed on her companion's arm as if to keep her
232 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
quiet till she should really know, and then, after a
minute, she poured out the clear essence of what in
happier days had been her " secret." " You mustn't
think I don't adore him when I've told him so
to his face. I love him so that I'd die for him I
love him so that it's horrible. Don't look at me
therefore as if I had not been kind, as if I had not
been as tender as if he were dying and my tender-
ness were what would save him. Look at me as
if you believe me, as if you feel what I've been
through. Darling Mrs. Gereth, I could kiss the
ground he walks on. I haven't a rag of pride ;
I used to have, but it's gone. I used to have a
secret, but every one knows it now, and any one
who looks at me can say, I think, what's the matter
with me. It's not so very fine, my secret, and the
less one really says about it the better ; but I want
you to have it from me because I was stiff before.
I want you to see for yourself that I've been
brought as low as a girl can very well be. It
serves me right," Fleda laughed, "if I was ever
proud and horrid to you ! I don't know what you
wanted me, in those days at Ricks, to do, but I
don't think you can have wanted much more than
what I've done. The other day at Maggie's I did
things that made me afterwards think of you ! I
don't know what girls may do ; but if he doesn't
know that there isn't an inch of me that isn't-
his !" Fleda sighed as if she couldn't express
it ; she piled it up, as she would have said ; hold-
ing Mrs. Gereth with dilated eyes she seemed to
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 233
sound her for the effect of these professions. " It's
idiotic," she wearily smiled ; " it's so strange that
I'm almost angry for it, and the strangest part of
all is that it isn't even happiness. It's anguish
it was from the first ; from the first there was a
bitterness and a kind of dread. But I owe you
every word of the truth. You don't do him justice
either : he's a dear, I assure you he's a dear. I'd
trust him to the last breath ; I don't think you
really know him. He's ever so much cleverer than
he makes a show of; he's remarkable in his own
shy way. You told me at Ricks that you wanted
me to let myself go, and I've 'gone' quite far
enough to discover as much as that, as well as all
sorts of other delightful things about him. You'll
tell me I make myself out worse than I am," said
the girl, feeling more and more in her companion's
attitude a quality that treated her speech as a
desperate rigmarole and even perhaps as a piece
of cold immodesty. She wanted to make herself
out " bad " it was a part of her justification ; but
it suddenly occurred to her that such a picture
of her extravagance imputed a want of gallantry
to the young man. " I don't care for anything you
think," she declared, "because Owen, don't you
know? sees me as I am. He's so kind that it
makes up for everything ! "
This attempt at gaiety was futile; the silence
with which for a minute her adversary greeted her
troubled plea brought home to her afresh that she
was on the bare defensive. "Is it a part of his
234 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
kindness never to come near you?" Mrs. Gereth
inquired at last. " Is it a part of his kindness to
leave you without an inkling of where he is ? "
She rose again from where Fleda had kept her
down ; she seemed to tower there in the majesty of
her gathered wrong. " Is it a part of his kindness
that after I've toiled as I've done for six days, and
with my own weak hands, which I haven't spared,
to denude myself, in your interest, to that point
that I've nothing left, as I may say, but what I
have on my back is it a part of his kindness that
you're not even able to produce him for me ? "
There was a high contempt in this which was
for Owen quite as much, and in the light of which
Fleda felt that her effort at plausibility had been
mere grovelling. She rose from the sofa with a
humiliated sense of rising from ineffectual knees.
That discomfort, however, lived but an instant : it
was swept away in a rush of loyalty to the absent.
She herself could bear his mother's scorn ; but to
avert it from his sweet innocence she broke out
with a quickness that was like the raising of an
arm. " Don't blame him don't blame him : he'd
do anything on earth for me ! It was I," said
Fleda eagerly, " who sent him back to her ; I
made him go ; I pushed him out of the house ; I
declined to have anything to say to him except on
Mrs. Gereth stared as at some gross material
ravage. " Another footing ? What other footing ? "
"The one I've already made so clear to you : my
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 235
having it in black and white, as you may say, from
her that she freely gives him up."
" Then you think he lies when he tells you that
he has recovered his liberty ? "
Fleda hesitated a moment ; after which she ex-
claimed with a certain hard pride : " He's enough
in love with me for anything ! "
"For anything apparently except to act like a
man and impose his reason and his will on your
incredible folly. For anything except to put an
end, as any man worthy of the name would have
put it, to your systematic, to your idiotic perver-
sity. What are you, after all, my dear, I should
like to know, that a gentleman who offers you what
Owen offers should have to meet such wonderful
exactions, to take such extraordinary precautions
about your sweet little scruples ? " Her resentment
rose to a strange insolence which Fleda took full
in the face and which, for the moment at least, had
the horrible force to present to her vengefully a
showy side of the truth. It gave her a blinding
glimpse of lost alternatives. " I don't know what
to think of him," Mrs. Gereth went on ; "I don't
know what to call him : I'm so ashamed of him
that I can scarcely speak of him even to you. But
indeed I'm so ashamed of you both together that I
scarcely know in common decency where to look."
She paused to give Fleda the full benefit of this
remarkable statement ; then she exclaimed : " Any
one but a jackass would have tucked you under his
arm and marched you off to the Registrar ! "
236 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Fleda wondered ; with her free imagination she
could wonder even while her cheek stung from a
slap. " To the Registrar ? "
"That would have been the sane, sound, imme-
diate course to adopt. With a grain of gumption
you'd both instantly have felt it. / should have
found a way to take you, you know, if I'd been
what Owen is supposed to be. / should have got
the business over first ; the rest could come when
you liked ! Good God, girl, your place was to
stand before me as a woman honestly married.
One doesn't know what one has hold of in touch-
ing you, and you must excuse my saying that
you're literally unpleasant to me to meet as you
are. Then at least we could have talked, and
Owen, if he had the ghost of a sense of humour,
could have snapped his fingers at your refinements."
This stirring speech affected our young lady as
if it had been the shake of a tambourine borne
towards her from a gipsy dance : her head seemed
to go round and she felt a sudden passion in her
feet. The emotion, however, was but meagrely
expressed in the flatness with which she heard
herself presently say : " I'll go to the Registrar
"Now?" Magnificent was the sound Mrs. Gereth
threw into this monosyllable. "And pray who's to
take you? " Fleda gave a colourless smile, and her
companion continued : " Do you literally mean
that you can't put your hand upon him ? " Fleda's
wan grimace appeared to irritate her ; she made a
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 237
short, imperious gesture. " Find him for me, you
fov\find him for me ! "
" What do you want of him," Fleda sadly asked,
" feeling as you do to both of us ? "
" Never mind how I feel, and never mind what
I say when I'm furious ! " Mrs. Gereth still more
incisively added. " Of course I cling to you, you
wretches, or I shouldn't suffer as I do. What I
want of him is to see that he takes you ; what I
want of him is to go with you myself to the place."
She looked round the room as if, in feverish haste,
for a mantle to catch up ; she bustled to the window
as if to spy out a cab : she would allow half-an-
hour for the job. Already in her bonnet, she had
snatched from the sofa a garment for the street :
she jerked it on as she came back. " Find him,
find him," she repeated ; " come straight out with
me, to try, at least, to get at him ! "
" How can I get at him ? He'll come when he's
ready," Fleda replied.
Mrs. Gereth turned on her sharply. " Ready for
what ? Ready to see me ruined without a reason
or a reward ? "
Fleda was silent ; the worst of it all was that
there was something unspoken between them.
Neither of them dared to utter it, but the influence
of it was in the girl's tone when she returned at
last, with great gentleness : " Don't be harsh to me
I'm very unhappy." The words produced a
visible impression on Mrs. Gereth, who held her
face averted and sent off through the window a
238 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
gaze that kept pace with the long caravan of her
treasures. Fleda knew she was watching it wind
up the avenue of Poynton Fleda participated
indeed fully in the vision ; so that after a little
the most consoling thing seemed to her to add :
" I don't see why in the world you take so for
granted that he's, as you say, ' lost.' "
Mrs. Gereth continued to stare out of the
window, and her stillness denoted some success
in controlling herself. "If he's not lost, why are
" I'm unhappy because I torment you and you
don't understand me."
" No, Fleda, I don't understand you," said Mrs.
Gereth, finally facing her again. " I don't under-
stand you at all, and it's as if you and Owen were
of quite another race and another flesh. You
make me feel very old-fashioned and simple and
bad. But you must take me as I am, since you
take so much else with me ! " She spoke now with
the drop of her resentment, with a dry and weary
calm. " It would have been better for me if I had
never known you," she pursued, "and certainly
better if I hadn't taken such an extraordinary
fancy to you. But that too was inevitable : every-
thing, I suppose, is inevitable. It was all my own
doing you didn't run after me : I pounced on
you and caught you up. You're a stiff little beggar,
in spite of your pretty manners : yes, you're hide-
ously misleading. I hope you feel how handsome
it is of me to recognise the independence of your
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 239
character. It was your clever sympathy that did
it your extraordinary feeling for those accursed
vanities. You were sharper about them than any
one I had ever known, and that was a thing I
simply couldn't resist. Well," the poor lady con-
cluded after a pause, " you see where it has landed
" If you'll go for him yourself I'll wait here," said
Mrs. Gereth, holding her mantle together, ap-
peared for a while to consider. " To his club, do
you mean ? "
" Isn't it there, when he's in town, that he has
a room? He has at present no other London
address," Fleda said. " It's there one writes to
" How do / know, with my wretched relations
with him ? " Mrs. Gereth asked.
"Mine have not been quite so bad as that,"
Fleda desperately smiled. Then she added : " His
silence, her silence, our hearing nothing at all
what are these but the very things on which, at
Poynton and at Ricks, you rested your assurance
that everything is at an end between them ? "
Mrs. Gereth looked dark and void. " Yes, but I
hadn't heard from you then that you could invent
nothing better than, as you call it, to send him
back to her."
" Ah, but, on the other hand, you've learned
from them what you didn't know you've learned
by Mrs. Brigstock's visit that he cares for me."
240 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
Fleda found herself in the position of availing
herself of optimistic arguments that she formerly
had repudiated ; her refutation of her companion
had completely changed its ground. She was in
a fever of ingenuity and painfully conscious, on
behalf of her success, that her fever was visible.
She could herself see the reflection of it glitter in
Mrs. Gereth's sombre eyes.
" You plunge me in stupefaction," that lady
answered, " and at the same time you terrify me.
Your account of Owen is inconceivable, and yet I
don't know what to hold on by. He cares for you,
it does appear, and yet in the same breath you in-
form me that nothing is more possible than that
he's spending these days at Waterbath. Excuse
me if I'm so dull as not to see my way in such
darkness. If he's at Waterbath he doesn't care for
you. If he cares for you he's not at Waterbath."
" Then where is he ? " poor Fleda helplessly
wailed. She caught herself up, however ; she did
her best to be brave and clear. Before Mrs.
Gereth could reply, with due obviousness, that
this was a question for her not to ask but to
answer, she found an air of assurance to say : " You
simplify far too much. You always did and you
always will. The tangle of life is much more
intricate than you've ever, I think, felt it to be.
You slash into it," cried Fleda finely, "with a
great pair of shears ; you nip at it as if you were
one of the Fates ! If Owen's at Waterbath he's
there to wind everything up."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 24!
Mrs. Gereth shook her head with slow austerity.
"You don't believe a word you're saying. I've
frightened you, as you've frightened me: you're
whistling in the dark to keep up our courage. I
do simplify, doubtless, if to simplify is to fail to
comprehend the insanity of a passion that bewilders
a young blockhead with bugaboo barriers, with
hideous and monstrous sacrifices. I can only re-
peat that you're beyond me. Your perversity's a
thing to howl over. However," the poor woman
continued with a break in her voice, a long hesita-
tion and then the dry triumph of her will, " I'll
never mention it to you again ! Owen I can just
make out ; for Owen is a blockhead. Owen's a
blockhead," she repeated with a quiet, tragic
finality, looking straight into Fleda's eyes. " I
don't know why you dress up so the fact that
he's disgustingly weak."
Fleda hesitated ; at last, before her companion's,
she lowered her look. " Because I love him. It's
because he's weak that he needs me," she added.
"That was why his father, whom he exactly
resembles, needed me. And I didn't fail his father,"
said Mrs. Gereth. She gave Fleda a moment to
appreciate the remark ; after which she pursued :
" Mona Brigstock isn't weak. She's stronger than
you ! "
" I never thought she was weak," Fleda answered*
She looked vaguely round the room with a new
purpose : she had lost sight of her umbrella.
" I did tell you to let yourself go, but it's clear
242 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
enough that you really haven't," Mrs. Gereth de-
clared. " If Mona has got him "
Fleda had accomplished her search ; her inter-
locutress paused. "If Mona has got him ? " the
girl inquired, tightening the umbrella.
" Well," said Mrs. Gereth profoundly, " it will be
clear enough that Mona has''
" Has let herself go ? "
" Has let herself go." Mrs. Gereth spoke as if
she saw it in every detail.
Fleda felt the tone and finished her preparation ;
then she went and opened the door. " We'll look
for him together," she said to her friend, who stood
a moment taking in her face. " They may know
something about him at the Colonel's."
"We'll go there." Mrs. Gereth had picked up
her gloves and her purse. " But the first thing,"
she went on, " will be to wire to Poynton."
" Why not to Waterbath at once ? " Fleda asked.
Her companion hesitated. " In your name ? "
" In my name. I noticed a place at the corner."
While Fleda held the door open Mrs. Gereth
drew on her gloves. " Forgive me," she presently
said. " Kiss me," she added.
Fleda, on the threshold, kissed her. Then they
both went out.
IN the place at the corner, on the chance of its
saving time, Fleda wrote her telegram wrote it in
silence under Mrs. Gereth's eye and then in silence
handed it to her. " I send this to Waterbath, on
the possibility of your being there, to ask you to
come to me." Mrs. Gereth held it a moment, read
it more than once ; then keeping it, and with her
eyes on her companion, seemed to consider. There
was the dawn of a kindness in her look ; Fleda
perceived in it, as if as the reward of complete
submission, a slight relaxation of her rigour.
" Wouldn't it perhaps after all be better," she
asked, "before doing this, to see if we can make
his whereabouts certain ? "
"Why so? It will be always so much done,"
said Fleda. " Though I'm poor," she added with a
smile, " I don't mind the shilling."
" The shilling's my shilling," said Mrs. Gereth.
Fleda stayed her hand. " No, no I'm super-
" Superstitious ? "
" To succeed, it must be all me ! "
244 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
"Well, if that will make it succeed!" Mrs.
Gereth took back her shilling, but she still kept
the telegram. " As he's most probably not
"If he shouldn't be there," Fleda interrupted,
" there will be no harm done."
"If he 'shouldn't be' there!" Mrs. Gereth
ejaculated. " Heaven help us, how you assume it ! "
"I'm only prepared for the worst. The Brig-
stocks will simply send any telegram on."
" Where will they send it ? "
" Presumably to Poynton."
" They'll read it first," said Mrs. Gereth.
" Yes, Mona will. She'll open it under the pre-
text of having it repeated ; and then she'll probably
do nothing. She'll keep it as a proof of your
" What of that ? " asked Fleda.
" You don't mind her seeing it ? "
Rather musingly and absently Fleda shook her
head. " I don't mind anything."
" Well then, that's all right," said Mrs. Gereth as
if she had only wanted to feel that she had been
irreproachably considerate. After this she was
gentler still, but she had another point to clear
up. "Why have you given, for a reply, your
sister's address ? "
" Because if he does come to me he must come to
me there. If that telegram goes," said Fleda, " I
return to Maggie's to-night."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 245
Mrs. Gereth seemed to wonder at this. "You
won't receive him here with me ? "
" No, I won't receive him here with you. Only
where I received him last only there again." She
showed her companion that as to that she was
But Mrs. Gereth had obviously now had some
practice in following queer movements prompted
by queer feelings. She resigned herself, though
she fingered the paper a moment longer. She
appeared to hesitate ; then she brought out : " You
couldn't then, if I release you, make your message
a little stronger ? "
Fleda gave her a faint smile. " He'll come if he
Mrs. Gereth met fully what this conveyed ; with
decision she pushed in the telegram. But she laid
her hand quickly upon another form and with still
greater decision wrote another message. " From
me, this," she said to Fleda when she had finished :
" to catch him possibly at Poynton. Will you read
Fleda turned away. " Thank you."
" It's stronger than yours."
" I don't care," said Fleda, moving to the door.
Mrs. Gereth, having paid for the second missive,
rejoined her, and they drove together to Owen's
club, where the elder lady alone got out. Fleda,
from the hansom, watched through the glass doors
her brief conversation with the hall-porter and then
met in silence her return with the news that he had
246 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
not seen Owen for a fortnight and was keeping his
letters till called for. These had been the last
orders; there were a dozen letters lying there.
He had no more information to give, but they
would see what they could find at Colonel Gereth's.
To any connection with this inquiry, however,
Fleda now roused herself to object, and her friend
had indeed to recognise that on second thoughts it
couldn't be quite to the taste of either of them to
advertise in the remoter reaches of the family that
they had forfeited the confidence of the master of
Poynton. The letters lying at the club proved
effectively that he was not in London, and this was
the question that immediately concerned them.
Nothing could concern them further till the answers
to their telegrams should have had time to arrive.
Mrs. Gereth had got back into the cab, and, still at
the door of the club, they sat staring at their need
of patience. Fleda's eyes rested, in the great hard
street, on passing figures that struck her as puppets
pulled by strings. After a little the driver chal-
lenged them through the hole in the top. " Any-
where in particular, ladies ? "
Fleda decided. " Drive to Euston, please."
" You won't wait for what we may hear ? " Mrs.
"Whatever we hear, I must go." As the cab
went on she added : " But I needn't drag you to the
Mrs. Gereth was silent a moment ; then " Non-
sense ! " she sharply replied.
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 247
In spite of this sharpness they were now almost
equally and almost tremulously mild ; though their
mildness took mainly the form of an inevitable
sense of nothing left to say. It was the unsaid
that occupied them the thing that for more than
an hour they had been going round and round
without naming it. Much too early for Fleda's
train, they encountered at the station a long half-
hour to wait. Fleda made no further allusion to
Mrs. Gereth's leaving her ; their dumbness, with
the elapsing minutes, grew to be in itself a recon-
stituted bond. They slowly paced the great grey
platform, and presently Mrs. Gereth took the girl's
arm and leaned on it with a hard demand for
support. It seemed to Fleda not difficult for each
to know of what the other was thinking to know
indeed that they had in common two alternating
visions, one of which at moments brought them as
by a common impulse to a pause. This was the
one that was fixed ; the other filled at times the
whole space and then was shouldered away. Owen
and Mona glared together out of the gloom and
disappeared, but the replenishment of Poynton
made a shining, steady light. The old splendour
was there again, the old things were in their places.
Our friends looked at them with an equal yearning ;
face to face, on the platform, they counted them in
each other's eyes. Fleda had come back to them
by a road as strange as the road they themselves
had followed. The wonder of their great journeys,
the prodigy of this second one, was the question
248 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
that made her occasionally stop. Several times
she uttered it, asked how this and that difficulty
had been met. Mrs. Gereth replied with pale
lucidity was naturally the person most familiar
with the truth that what she undertook was always
somehow achieved. To do it was to do it she
had more than one kind of magnificence. She
confessed there, audaciously enough, to a sort of
arrogance of energy, and Fleda, going on again,
her inquiry more than answered and her arm
rendering service, flushed in her diminished identity
with the sense that such a woman was great.
"You do mean literally everything, to the last
little miniature on the last little screen ? "
" I mean literally everything. Go over them with
the catalogue ! "
Fleda went over them while they walked again ;
she had no need of the catalogue. At last she
spoke once more. " Even the Maltese cross ? "
" Even the Maltese cross. Why not that as well
as everything else? especially as I remembered
how you like it."
Finally, after an interval, the girl exclaimed :
" But the mere fatigue of it, the exhaustion of such
a feat ! I drag you to and fro here while you must
be ready to drop."
" I'm very, very tired." Mrs. Gereth's slow head-
shake was tragic. " I couldn't do it again."
" I doubt if they'd bear it again ! "
" That's another matter : they'd bear it if I could.
T.here \yon't ha.ve been, this time either, a shake or
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 249
a scratch. But I'm too tired I very nearly don't
" You must sit down then till I go," said Fleda.
" We must find a bench."
" No. I'm tired of them : I'm not tired of you.
This is the way for you to feel most how much I
rest on you." Fleda had a compunction, wondering
as they continued to stroll whether it was right
after all to leave her. She believed however that
if the flame might for the moment burn low it was
far from dying out ; an impression presently con-
firmed by the way Mrs. Gereth went on : " But
one's fatigue is nothing. The idea under which
one worked kept one up. For you I could I can
still. Nothing will have mattered if she's not there."
There was a question that this imposed, but
Fleda at first found no voice to utter it : it was the
thing that between them, since her arrival, had been
so consciously and vividly unsaid. Finally she was
able to breathe : " And if she is there if she's
Mrs. Gereth's rejoinder too hung back ; then
when it came from sad eyes as well as from lips
barely moved it was unexpectedly merciful. "It
will be very hard." That was all now ; and it was
poignantly simple. The train Fleda was to take
had drawn up ; the girl kissed her as if in farewell.
Mrs. Gereth submitted, then after a little brought
out : " If we have lost "
" If we have lost ? " Fleda repeated as she paused
250 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" You'll all the same come abroad with me ? "
"It will seem very strange to me if you want me.
But whatever you ask, whatever you need, that I
will always do."
" I shall need your company," said Mrs. Gereth.
Fleda wondered an instant if this were not practi-
cally a demand for penal submission for a sur-
render that, in its complete humility, would be a
long expiation. But there was none of the latent
chill of the vindictive in the way Mrs. Gereth
pursued : " We can always, as time goes on, talk of
"Of the old things?" Fleda had selected a
third-class compartment : she stood a moment
looking into it and at a fat woman with a basket
who had already taken possession. " Always ? " she
said, turning again to her companion. " Never ! "
she exclaimed. She got into the carriage, and two
men with bags and boxes immediately followed,
blocking up door and window so long that when
she was able to look out again Mrs. Gereth had
THERE came to her at her sister's no telegram
in answer to her own : the rest of that day and
the whole of the next elapsed without a word
either from Owen or from his mother. She was
free, however, to her infinite relief, from any direct
dealing with suspense, and conscious, to her sur-
prise, of nothing that could show her, or could
show Maggie and her brother-in-law, that she was
excited. Her excitement was composed of pulses
as swift and fine as the revolutions of a spinning
top : she supposed she was going round, but she
went round so fast that she couldn't even feel her-
self move. Her emotion occupied some quarter
of her soul that had closed its doors for the day
and shut out even her own sense of it ; she might
perhaps have heard something if she had pressed
her ear to a partition. Instead of that she sat
with her patience in a cold, still chamber from
which she could look out in quite another direction.
This was to have achieved an equilibrium to which
she couldn't have given a name : indifference,
resignation, despair were the terms of a forgotten
252 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
tongue. The time even seemed not long, for the
stages of the journey were the items of Mrs.
Gereth's surrender. The detail of that perform-
ance, which filled the scene, was what Fleda had
now before her eyes. The part of her loss that
she could think of was the reconstituted splendour
of Poynton. It was the beauty she was most
touched by that, in tons, she had lost the beauty
that, charged upon big wagons, had safely crept
back to its home. But the loss was a gain to
memory and love ; it was to her too at last that,
in condonation of her treachery, the old things had
crept back. She greeted them with open arms ;
she thought of them hour after hour ; they made
a company with which solitude was warm and a
picture that, at this crisis, overlaid poor Maggie's
scant mahogany. It was really her obliterated
passion that had revived, and with it an immense
assent to Mrs. Gereth's early judgment of her.
She equally, she felt, was of the religion, and like
any other of the passionately pious she could
worship now even in the desert. Yes, it was all
for her ; far round as she had gone she had been
strong enough : her love had gathered in the spoils.
She wanted indeed no catalogue to count them
over ; the array of them, miles away, was complete ;
each piece, in its turn, was perfect to her ; she could
have drawn up a catalogue from memory. Thus
again she lived with them, and she thought of
them without a question of any personal right.
That they might have been, that they might still
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 253
be hers, that they were perhaps already another's,
were ideas that had too little to say to her. They
were nobody's at all too proud, unlike base
animals and humans, to be reducible to anything
so narrow. It was Poynton that was theirs ; they
had simply recovered their own. The joy of that
for them was the source of the strange peace in
which the girl found herself floating.
It was broken on the third day by a telegram
from Mrs. Gereth. "Shall be with you at 11.30
don't meet me at station." Fleda turned this
over ; she was sufficiently expert not to disobey
the injunction. She had only an hour to take in
its meaning, but that hour was longer than all
the previous time. If Maggie had studied her
convenience the day Owen came, Maggie was
also at the present juncture a miracle of refine-
ment. Increasingly and resentfully mystified, in
spite of all reassurance, by the impression that
Fleda suffered more than she gained 1 from the
grandeur of the Gereths, she had it at heart to
exemplify the perhaps truer distinction of nature
that characterised the house of Vetch. She was
not, like poor Fleda, at every one's beck, and the
visitor was to see no more of her than what the
arrangement of luncheon might tantalisingly show.
Maggie described herself to her sister as intending
for a just provocation even the understanding she
had had with her husband that he also should
remain invisible. Fleda accordingly awaited alone
the subject of so many manoeuvres a period that
254 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
was slightly prolonged even after the drawing-room
door, at 11.30, was thrown open. Mrs. Gereth
stood there with a face that spoke plain, but no
sound fell from her till the withdrawal of the maid,
whose attention had immediately attached itself
to the rearrangement of a window-blind and who
seemed, while she bustled at it, to contribute to
the pregnant silence ; before the duration of which,
however, she retreated with a sudden stare.
" He has done it," said Mrs. Gereth, turning her
eyes avoidingly but not unperceivingly about her
and in spite of herself dropping an opinion upon
the few objects in the room. Fleda, on her side,
in her silence, observed how characteristically she
looked at Maggie's possessions before looking at
Maggie's sister. The girl understood and at first
had nothing to say ; she was still dumb while Mrs.
Gereth selected, with hesitation, a seat less dis-
tasteful than the one that happened to be nearest.
On the sofa near the window the poor woman
finally showed what the two past days had done
for the age of her face. Her eyes at last met
Fleda's. " It's the end."
Fleda came to the sofa in obedience to the im-
pulse to sit down by her ; then paused before her
while Mrs. Gereth turned up a dead grey mask.
A tired old woman sat there with empty hands in
her lap. " I've heard nothing," said Fleda. " No
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 255
"That's the only answer. It's the answer to
everything." So Fleda saw; for a minute she
looked over her companion's head and far away.
" He wasn't at Waterbath. Mrs. Brigstock must
have read your telegram and kept it. But mine,
the one to Poynton, brought something. * We are
here what do you want ? ' " Mrs. Gereth stopped
as if with a failure of voice ; on which Fleda sank
upon the sofa and made a movement to take her
hand. It met no response; there could be no
attenuation. Fleda waited; they sat facing each
other like strangers. " I wanted to go down,"
Mrs. Gereth presently continued. " Well, I went."
All the girl's effort tended for the time to a
single aim that of taking the thing with outward
detachment, speaking of it as having happened to
Owen and to his mother and not in any degree to
herself. Something at least of this was in the
encouraging way she said : " Yesterday morning ? "
" Yesterday morning. I saw him."
Fleda hesitated. " Did you see her ?"
"Thank God, no!"
Fleda laid on her arm a hand of vague comfort,
of which Mrs. Gereth took no notice. " You've
been capable, just to tell me, of this wretched
journey, of this consideration that I don't de-
"We're together, we're together," said Mrs.
Gereth. She looked helpless as she sat there, her
eyes, unseeingly enough, on a tall Dutch clock,
old but rather poor, that Maggie had had as a
256 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
wedding-gift and that eked out the bareness of
To Fleda, in the face of the event, it appeared
that this was exactly what they were not: the
last inch of common ground, the ground of their
past intercourse, had fallen from under them.
Yet what was still there was the grand style of
her companion's treatment of her. Mrs. Gereth
couldn't stand upon small questions, couldn't in
conduct make small differences. "You're mag-
nificent ! " her young friend exclaimed. " There's
an extraordinary greatness in your generosity."
" We're together, we're together," Mrs. Gereth
lifelessly repeated. " That's all we are now ; it's
all we have." The words brought to Fleda a
sudden vision of the empty little house at Ricks;
such a vision might also have been what her
companion found in the face of the stopped Dutch
clock. Yet with this it was clear that she would
now show no bitterness: she had done with that,
had given the last drop to those horrible hours
in London. No passion even was left to her, and
her forbearance only added to the force with which
she represented the final vanity of everything.
Fleda was so far from a wish to triumph that
she was absolutely ashamed of having anything
to say for herself; but there was one thing, all
the same, that not to say was impossible. " That
he has done it, that he couldn't not do it, shows
how right I was." It settled forever her attitude,
and she spoke as if for her own mind ; then after
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 257
a little she added very gently, for Mrs. Gereth's:
"That's to say, it shows that he was bound to
her by an obligation that, however much he may
have wanted to, he couldn't in any sort of honour
Blanched and bleak, Mrs. Gereth looked at her.
" What sort of an obligation do you call that ?
No such obligation exists for an hour between
any man and any woman who have hatred on
one side. He had ended by hating her, and now
he hates her more than ever."
"Did he tell you so?" Fleda asked.
" No. He told me nothing but the great gawk
of a fact. I saw him but for three minutes."
She was silent again, and Fleda, as before some
lurid image of this interview, sat without speak-
ing. " Do you wish to appear as if you don't
care?" Mrs. Gereth presently demanded.
" I'm trying not to think of myself."
" Then if you're thinking of Owen, how can
you bear to think ? "
Sadly and submissively Fleda shook her head ;
the slow tears had come into her eyes. " I can't.
I don't understand I don't understand ! " she
" / do, then." Mrs. Gereth looked hard at the
floor. " There was no obligation at the time you
saw him last when you sent him, hating her as
he did, back to her."
" If he went," Fleda asked, "doesn't that exactly
prove that he recognised one ? "
258 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" He recognised rot ! You know what / think
of him." Fleda knew; she had no wish to pro-
voke a fresh statement. Mrs. Gereth made one
it was her sole, faint flicker of passion to the
extent of declaring that he was too abjectly weak
to deserve the name of a man. For all Fleda
cared ! it was his weakness she loved in him.
" He took strange ways of pleasing you ! " her
friend went on. "There was no obligation till
suddenly, the other day, the situation changed."
Fleda wondered. " The other day ? "
" It came to Mona's knowledge I can't tell you
how, but it came that the things I was sending
back had begun to arrive at Poynton. I had
sent them for you, but it was her I touched."
Mrs. Gereth paused; Fleda was too absorbed in
her explanation to do anything but take blankly
the full, cold breath of this. " They were there,
and that determined her."
" Determined her to what ? "
" To act, to take means."
" To take means ? " Fleda repeated.
" I can't tell you what they were, but they were
powerful. She knew how," said Mrs. Gereth.
Fleda received with the same stoicism the
quiet immensity of this allusion to the person
who had not known how. But it made her think
a little, and the thought found utterance, with
unconscious irony, in the simple interrogation :
Why not ? She's a brute."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 259
" But if he knew that so well, what chance was
there in it for her ? "
" How can I tell you ? How can I talk of such
horrors ? I can only give you, of the situation, what
I see. He knew it, yes. But as she couldn't
make him forget it, she tried to make him like it.
She tried and she succeeded : that's what she did.
She's after all so much less of a fool than he. And
what else had he originally liked?" Mrs. Gereth
shrugged her shoulders. "She did what you
wouldn't ! " Fleda's face had grown dark with her
wonder, but her friend's empty hands offered no
balm to the pain in it. " It was that if it was any-
thing. Nothing else meets the misery of it. Then
there was quick work. Before he could turn round
he was married."
Fleda, as if she had been holding her breath, gave
the sigh of a listening child. " At that place you
spoke of in town ? "
" At a Registry-office like a pair of low athe-
The girl hesitated. " What do people say of that ?
I mean the ' world.' "
" Nothing, because nobody knows. They're to be
married on the i/th at Waterbath church. If any-
thing else comes out, everybody is a little prepared.
It will pass for some stroke of diplomacy, some move
in the game, some outwitting of me. It's known
there has been a row with me."
Fleda was mystified. "People surely know at
Poynton," she objected, " if, as you say, she's there."
26o THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" She was there, day before yesterday, only for a
few hours. She met him in London and went down
to see the things."
Fleda remembered that she had seen them only
once. " Did you see them ? " she then ventured to
" Are they right ? "
" Quite right. There's nothing like them," said
Mrs. Gereth. At this her companion took up one
of her hands again and kissed it as she had done in
London. " Mona went back that night ; she was
not there yesterday. Owen stayed on," she added.
Fleda stared. " Then she's not to live there ? "
"Rather! But not till after the public marriage."
Mrs. Gereth seemed to muse ; then she brought out :
"She'll live there alone."
" She'll have it to herself."
" He won't live with her? "
" Never ! But she's none the less his wife, and
you're not," said Mrs. Gereth, getting up. "Our
only chance is the chance she may die."
Fleda appeared to consider : she appreciated her
visitor's magnanimous use of the plural. " Mona
won't die," she replied.
" Well, / shall, thank God ! Till then "and with
this, for the first time, Mrs. Gereth put out her hand
" don't desert me."
Fleda took her hand, and her clasp of it was a
reiteration of a promise already given. She said
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 261
nothing, but her silence was an acceptance as
responsible as the vow of a nun. The next moment
something occurred to her. " I mustn't put myself
in your son's way."
Mrs. Gereth gave a dry, flat laugh. "You're
prodigious ! But how shall you possibly be more
out of it ? Owen and I " She didn't finish her
" That's your great feeling about him," Fleda said ;
" but how, after what has happened, can it be his
about you ? "
Mrs. Gereth hesitated. " How do you know what
has happened? You don't know what I said to
" Yesterday ? "
They looked at each other with a long, deep
gaze. Then, as Mrs. Gereth seemed again about
to speak, the girl, closing her eyes, made a gesture
of strong prohibition. " Don't tell me ! "
" Merciful powers, how you worship him ! " Mrs.
Gereth wonderingly moaned. It was for Fleda the
shake that made the cup overflow. She had a pause,
that of the child who takes time to know that he
responds to an accident with pain ; then, dropping
again on the sofa, she broke into tears. They were
beyond control, they came in long sobs, which for a
moment Mrs. Gereth, alrrtost with an air of indiffer-
ence, stood hearing and watching. At last Mrs.
Gereth too sank down again. Mrs. Gereth sound-
lessly, wearily wept.
" IT looks just like Waterbath ; but, after all, we
bore that together : " these words formed part of a
letter in which, before the i^th, Mrs. Gereth, writing
from disfigured Ricks, named to Fleda the day on
which she would be expected to arrive there on a
second visit. " I shan't, for a long time to come,"
the missive continued, " be able to receive any one
who may like it, who would try to smooth it down,
and me with it ; but there are always things you
and I can comfortably hate together, for you're the
only person who comfortably understands. You
don't understand quite everything, but of all my
acquaintance you're far away the least stupid. For
action you're no good at all ; but action is over, for
me, forever, and you will have the great merit of
knowing, when I'm brutally silent, what I shall be
thinking about. Without setting myself up for
your equal I dare say I shall also know what are
your own thoughts. Moreover, with nothing else
but my four walls, you'll at any rate be a bit of
furniture. For that, you know, a little, I've always
taken you quite one of my best finds. So come,
if possible, on the 15th."
THE SPOILS OF POYNtON 263
The position of a bit of furniture was one that
Fleda could conscientiously accept, and she by no
means insisted on so high a place in the list. This
communication made her easier, if only by its
acknowledgment that her friend had something
left: it still implied recognition of the principle
of property. Something to hate, and to hate
"comfortably," was at least not the utter desti-
tution to which, after their last interview, she had
helplessly seemed to see Mrs. Gereth go forth.
She remembered indeed that, in the state in which
they first saw it, she herself had " liked " the
blessed refuge of Ricks ; and she now . wondered
if the tact for which she was commended had then
operated to make her keep her kindness out of
sight. She was at present ashamed of such
obliquity and made up her mind that if this happy
impression, quenched in the spoils of Poynton,
should revive on the spot, she would utter it to her
companion without reserve. Yes, she was capable
of as much " action " as that : all the more that the
spirit of her hostess seemed, for the time at least,
wholly to have failed. Mrs. Gereth's three minutes
with Owen had been a blow to all talk of travel,
and after her woeful hour at Maggie's she had, like
some great moaning, wounded bird, made her way
with wings of anguish back to the nest she knew
she should find empty. Fleda, on that dire day,
could neither keep her nor give her up ; she had
pressingly offered to return with her, but Mrs.
Gereth, in spite of the theory that their common
264 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
grief was a bond, had even declined all escort to
the station, conscious apparently of something
abject in her collapse and almost fiercely eager, as
with a personal shame, to be unwatched. All she
had said to Fleda was that she would go back to
Ricks that night, and the girl had lived for days
after with a dreadful image of her position and her
misery there. She had had a vision of her now
lying prone on some unmade bed, now pacing a
bare floor like a lioness deprived of her cubs.
There had been moments when her mind's ear
was strained to listen for some sound of grief wild
enough to be wafted from afar. But the first
sound, at the end of a week, had been a note
announcing, without reflections, that the plan of
going abroad had been abandoned. " It has come
to me indirectly, but with much appearance of
truth, that they are going for an indefinite time.
That quite settles it ; I shall stay where I am, and
as soon as I've turned round again I shall look for
you." The second letter had come a week later,
and on the I5th Fleda was on her way to Ricks.
Her arrival took the form of a surprise very
nearly as violent as that of the other time. The
elements were different, but the effect, like the
other, arrested her on the threshold : she stood
there stupefied and delighted at the magic of a
passion of which such a picture represented the
low-water mark. Wound up but sincere, and
passing quickly from room to room, Fleda broke
out before she even sat down. "If you turn me
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 265
out of the house for it, my dear, there isn't a
woman in England for whom it wouldn't be a
privilege to live here." Mrs. Gereth was as honestly
bewildered as she had of old been falsely calm.
She looked about at the few sticks that, as she
afterwards phrased it, she had gathered in, and
then hard at her guest, as if to protect herself
against a joke sufficiently cruel. The girl's heart
gave a leap, for this stare was the sign of an
opportunity. Mrs. Gereth was all unwitting ; she
didn't in the least know what she had done, and
as Fleda could tell her, Fleda suddenly became the
one who knew most. That counted for the moment
as a magnificent position ; it almost made all the
difference. Yet what contradicted it was the
vivid presence of the artist's idea. " Where on
earth did you put your hand on such beautiful
things ? "
" Beautiful things ? " Mrs. Gereth turned again
to the little worn, bleached stuffs and the sweet
spindle-legs. "They're the wretched things that
were here that stupid, starved old woman's."
"The maiden-aunt's, the nicest, the dearest old
woman that ever lived? I thought you had got
rid of the maiden-aunt."
"She was stored in an empty barn stuck
away for a sale ; a matter that, fortunately,
I've had neither time nor freedom of mind to
arrange. I've simply, in my extremity, fished her
" You've simply, in your extremity, made a delight
266 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
of her." Fleda took the highest line and the upper
hand, and as Mrs. Gereth, challenging her cheer-
fulness, turned again a lustreless eye over the
contents of the place, she broke into a rapture that
was unforced, but that she was conscious of an
advantage in being able to feel. She moved, as
she had done on the. previous occasion, from one
piece to another, with looks of recognition and
hands that lightly lingered, but she was as feverishly
jubilant now as she had formerly been anxious and
mute. " Ah, the little melancholy, tender, tell-tale
things : how can they not speak to you and find a
way to your heart? It's not the great chorus of
Poynton ; but you're not, I'm sure, either so proud
or so broken as to be reached by nothing but that.
This is a voice so gentle, so human, so feminine a
faint, far-away voice with the little quaver of a
heart-break. You've listened to it unawares ; for
the arrangement and effect of everything when I
compare them with what we found the first day we
came down shows, even if mechanically and dis-
dainfully exercised, your admirable, infallible hand.
It's your extraordinary genius ; you make things
* compose ' in spite of yourself. You've only to
be a day or two in a place with four sticks for
something to come of it ! "
" Then if anything has come of it here, it has
come precisely of just four. That's literally, by the
inventory, all there are ! " said Mrs. Gereth.
" If there were more there would be too many to
convey the impression in which half the beauty
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 267
resides the impression, somehow, of something
dreamed and missed, something reduced, relin-
quished, resigned : the poetry, as it were, of some-
thing sensibly gone" Fleda ingeniously and
triumphantly worked it out. "Ah, there's some-
thing here that will never be in the inventory ! "
" Does it happen to be in your power to give it
a name?" Mrs. Gereth's face showed the dim
dawn of an amusement at finding herself seated at
the feet of her pupil.
" I can give it a dozen. It's a kind of fourth
dimension. It's a presence, a perfume, a touch.
It's a soul, a story, a life. There's ever so much
more here than you and I. We're in fact just
three ! "
" Oh, if you count the ghosts ! "
" Of course I count the ghosts. It seems to me
ghosts count double for what they were and for
what they are. Somehow there were no ghosts
at Poynton," Fleda went on. " That was the only
Mrs. Gereth, considering, appeared to fall in
with the girl's fine humour. " Poynton was too
" Poynton was too splendidly happy," Fleda
" But it's cured of that now," her companion
" Yes, henceforth there'll be a ghost or two."
Mrs. Gereth thought again : she found her young
friend suggestive. " Only she won't see them."
268 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" No, ' she ' won't see them." Then Fleda said :
" What I mean is, for this dear one of ours, that if
she had (as I know she did ; it's in the very taste
of the air !) a great accepted pain "
She had paused an instant, and Mrs. Gereth took
her up. "Well, if she had?"
Fleda still hesitated. " Why, it was worse than
Mrs. Gereth reflected. "Very likely." Then
she too hesitated. " The question is if it was worse
" Mine ? " Fleda looked vague.
" Precisely. Yours."
At this our young lady smiled. " Yes, because
it was a disappointment. She had been so sure."
" I see. And you were never sure."
" Never. Besides, I'm happy," said Fleda.
Mrs. Gereth met her eyes awhile. " Goose ! "
she quietly remarked as she turned away. There
was a curtness in it ; nevertheless it represented
a considerable part of the basis of their new
On the 1 8th The Morning Post had at last its
clear message, a brief account of the marriage, from
the residence of the bride's mother, of Mr. Owen
Gereth of Poynton Park to Miss Mona Brigstock
of Waterbath. There were two ecclesiastics and
six bridesmaids and, as Mrs. Gereth subsequently
said, a hundred frumps, as well as a special train
from town : the scale of the affair sufficiently
showed that the preparations had been complete
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 269
for weeks. The happy pair were described as
having taken their departure for Mr. Gereth's own
seat, famous for its unique collection of artistic
curiosities. The newspapers and letters, the fruits
of the first London post, had been brought to the
mistress of Ricks in the garden ; and she lingered
there alone a long time after receiving them. Fleda
kept at a distance; she knew what must have
happened, for from one of the windows she saw
her rigid in a chair, her eyes strange and fixed, the
newspaper open on the ground and the letters
untouched in her lap. Before the morning's end
she had disappeared, and the rest of that day she
remained in her room : it recalled to Fleda, who
had picked up the newspaper, the day, months
before, on which Owen had come down to Poynton
to make his engagement known. The hush of the
house at least was the same, and the girl's own
waiting, her soft wandering, through the hours :
there was a difference indeed sufficiently great, of
which her companion's absence might in some
degree have represented a considerate recognition.
That was at any rate the meaning Fleda, devoutly
glad to be alone, attached to her opportunity.
Mrs. Gereth's sole allusion the next day to the
subject of their thoughts has already been men-
tioned : it was a dazzled glance at the fact that
Mona's quiet pace had really never slackened.
Fleda fully assented. " I said of our disembodied
friend here that she had suffered in proportion as
she had been sure. But that's not always a source
2;o THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
of suffering. It's Mona who must have been
sure ! "
" She was sure of you / " Mrs. Gereth returned.
But this didn't diminish the satisfaction taken by
Fleda in showing how serenely and lucidly she
HER relation with her wonderful friend had,
however, in becoming a new one begun to shape
itself almost wholly on breaches and omissions.
Something had dropped out altogether, and the
question between them, which time would answer,
was whether the change had made them strangers
or yokefellows. It was as if at last, for better or
worse, they were, in a clearer, cruder air, really to
know each other. Fleda wondered how Mrs.
Gereth had escaped hating her : there were hours
when it seemed that such a feat might leave after
all a scant margin for future accidents. The thing
indeed that now came out in its simplicity was
that even in her shrunken state the lady of Ricks
was larger than her wrongs. As for the girl her-
self, she had made up her mind that her feelings
had no connection with the case. It was her
pretension that they had never yet emerged from
the seclusion into which, after her friend's visit to
her at her sister's, we saw them precipitately retire :
if she should suddenly meet them in straggling
procession on the road it would be time enough to
272 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
deal with them. They were all bundled there
together, likes with dislikes and memories with
fears ; and she had for not thinking of them the
excellent reason that she was too occupied with
the actual. The actual was not that Owen Gereth
had seen his necessity where she had pointed it
out ; it was that his mother's bare spaces demanded
all the tapestry that the recipient of her bounty
could furnish. There were moments during the
month that followed when Mrs. Gereth struck her
as still older and feebler and as likely to become
quite easily amused.
At the end of it, one day, the London paper had
another piece of news : " Mr. and Mrs. Owen
Gereth, who arrived in town last week, proceed
this morning to Paris." They exchanged no word
about it till the evening, and none indeed would
then have been uttered had not Mrs. Gereth
irrelevantly broken out : " I dare say you wonder
why I declared the other day with such assurance
that he wouldn't live with her. He apparently is
living with her."
"Surely it's the only proper thing for him to
" They're beyond me I give it up," said Mrs.
" I don't give it up I never did," Fleda
" Then what do you make of his aversion to
" Oh, she has dispelled it."
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 273
Mrs. Gereth said nothing for a minute. " You're
prodigious in your choice of terms ! " she then
But Fleda went luminously on ; she once more
enjoyed her great command of her subject. " I
think that when you came to see me at Maggie's you
saw too many things, you had too many ideas."
" You had none," said Mrs. Gereth. " You were
"Yes, I didn't quite understand but I think I
understand now. The case is simple and logical
enough. She's a person who's upset by failure
and who blooms and expands with success. There
was something she had set her heart upon, set
her teeth about the house exactly as she had
" She never saw it at all, she never looked at it ! "
cried Mrs. Gereth.
" She doesn't look with her eyes ; she looks with
her ears. In her own way she had taken it in ;
she knew, she felt when it had been touched. That
probably made her take an attitude that was
extremely disagreeable. But the attitude lasted
only while the reason for it lasted."
" Go on I can bear it now," said Mrs. Gereth.
Her companion had just perceptibly paused.
" I know you can, or I shouldn't dream of speak-
ing. When the pressure was removed she came up
again. From the moment the house was once
more what it had to be, her natural charm reasserted
274 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
" Her natural charm ! " Mrs. Gereth could barely
" It's very great ; everybody thinks so ; there
must be something in it. It operated as it had
operated before. There's no need of imagining
anything very monstrous. Her restored good
humour, her splendid beauty and Mr. Owen's
impressibility and generosity sufficiently cover the
ground. His great bright sun came out ! "
" And his great bright passion for another person
went in. Your explanation would doubtless be
perfection if he didn't love you."
Fleda was silent a little. " What do you know
about his * loving ' me ? "
" I know what Mrs. Brigstock herself told me."
" You never in your life took her word for any
" Then won't yours do ? " Mrs. Gereth demanded.
" Haven't I had it from your own mouth that he
cares for you ? "
Fleda turned pale, but she faced her companion
and smiled. "You confound, Mrs. Gereth. You
mix things up. You've only had it from my own
mouth that I care for him / "
It was doubtless in contradictious allusion to this
(which at the time had made her simply drop her
head as in a strange, vain reverie) that Mrs. Gereth,
a day or two later, said to Fleda : " Don't think I
shall be a bit affected if I'm here to see it when he
comes again to make up to you."
" He won't do that," the girl replied. Then she
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 275
added, smiling : " But if he should be guilty of
such bad taste it wouldn't be nice of you not to be
" I'm not talking of disgust ; I'm talking of its
opposite," said Mrs. Gereth.
" Of its opposite ? "
" Why, of any reviving pleasure that one might
feel in such an exhibition. I shall feel none at all.
You may personally take it as you like ; but what
conceivable good will it do ? "
Fleda wondered. " To me, do you mean ?/'
" Deuce take you, no ! To what we don't, you
know, by your wish, ever talk about."
" The old things ? " Fleda considered again. " It
will do no good of any sort to anything or any one.
That's another question I would rather we shouldn't
discuss, please," she gently added.
Mrs. Gereth shrugged her shoulders. "It cer-
tainly isn't worth it ! "
Something in her manner prompted her com-
panion, with a certain inconsequence, to speak
again. " That was partly why I came back to you,
you know that there should be the less possibility
of anything painful."
"Painful?" Mrs. Gereth stared. "What pain
can I ever feel again ? "
" I meant painful to myself," Fleda, with a slight
"Oh, I see." Her friend was silent a minute.
" You use sometimes such odd expressions. Well,
I shall last a little, but I sha'n't last forever,"
276 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
"You'll last quite as long " Here Fleda
Mrs. Gereth took her up with a cold smile that
seemed the warning of experience against hyperbole.
" As long as what, please ? "
The girl thought an instant ; then met the
difficulty by adopting, as an amendment, the same
tone. " As any danger of the ridiculous."
That did for the time, and she had moreover, as
the months went on, the protection of suspended
allusions. This protection was marked when, in
the following November, she received a letter
directed in a hand at which a quick glance sufficed
to make her hesitate to open it. She said nothing,
then or afterwards ; but she opened it, for reasons
that had come to her, on the morrow. It consisted
of a page and a half from Owen Gereth, dated
from Florence, but with no other preliminary.
She knew that during the summer he had returned
to England with his wife, and that after a couple
of months they had again gone abroad. She also
knew, without communication, that Mrs. Gereth,
round whom Ricks had grown submissively and
indescribably sweet, had her own interpretation of
her daughter-in-law's share in this second migration.
It was a piece of calculated insolence a stroke
odiously directed at showing whom it might
concern that now she had Poynton fast she was
perfectly indifferent to living there. The Morning
Post, at Ricks, had again been a resource : it was
stated in that journal that Mr. and Mrs. Owen
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 277
Gereth proposed to spend the winter in India.
There was a person to whom it was clear that she
led her wretched husband by the nose. Such was
the light in which contemporary history was offered
to Fleda until, in her own room, late at night, she
broke the seal of her letter.
" I want you, inexpressibly, to have, as a re-
membrance, something of mine something of real
value. Something from Poynton is what I mean
and what I should prefer. You know everything
there, and far better than I what's best and what
isn't. There are a lot of differences, but aren't
some of the smaller things the most remarkable ?
I mean for judges, and for what they'd bring.
What I want you to take from me, and to choose
for yourself, is the thing in the whole house that's
most beautiful and precious. I mean the * gem of
the collection/ don't you know? If it happens to
be of such a sort that you can take immediate
possession of it carry it right away with you
so much the better. You're to have it on the spot,
whatever it is. I humbly beg of you to go down
there and see. The people have complete instruc-
tions : they'll act for you in every possible way
and put the whole place at your service. There's
a thing mamma used to call the Maltese cross and
that I think I've heard her say is very wonderful.
Is that the gem of the collection? Perhaps you
would take it or anything equally convenient.
Only I do want you awfully to let it be the very
pick of the place. Let me feel that I can trust
278 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
you for this. You won't refuse if you will think
a little what it must be that makes me ask."
Fleda read that last sentence over more times
even than the rest : she was baffled she couldn't
think at all of what it might be. This was indeed
because it might be one of so many things. She
made for the present no answer ; she merely, little
by little, fashioned for herself the form that her
answer should eventually wear. There was only
one form that was possible the form of doing,
at her time, what he wished. She would go down
to Poynton as a pilgrim might go to a shrine, and
as to this she must look out for her chance. She
lived with her letter, before any chance came, a
month, and even after a month it had mysteries
for her that she couldn't meet. What did it mean,
what did it represent, to what did it correspond
in his imagination or his soul ? What was behind
it, what was before it, what was, in the deepest
depth, within it? She said to herself that with
these questions she was under no obligation to
deal. There was an explanation of them that, for
practical purposes, would do as well as another :
he had found in his marriage a happiness so much
greater than, in the distress of his dilemma, he had
been able to take heart to believe, that he now
felt he owed her a token of gratitude for having
kept him in the straight path. That explanation,
I say, she could throw off ; but no explanation in
the least mattered : what determined her was the
simple strength of her impulse to respond. The
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 279
passion for which what had happened had made
no difference, the passion that had taken this into
account before as well as after, found here an issue
that there was nothing whatever to choke. It
found even a relief to which her imagination
immensely contributed. Would she act upon his
offer? She would act with secret rapture. To
have as her own something splendid that he had
given her, of which the gift had been his signed
desire, would be a greater joy than the greatest
she had supposed to be left to her, and she felt
that till the sense of this came home she had even
herself not known what burned in her successful
stillness. It was an hour to dream of and watch
for ; to be patient was to draw out the sweetness.
She was capable of feeling it as an hour of triumph,
the triumph of everything in her recent life that
had not held up its head. She moved there in
thought in the great rooms she knew ; she should
be able to say to herself that, for once at least, her
possession was as complete as that of either of the
others whom it had rilled only with bitterness.
And a thousand times yes her choice should
know no scruple : the thing she should go down
to take would be up to the height of her privilege.
The whole place was in her eyes, and she spent
for weeks her private hours in a luxury of com-
parison and debate. It should be one of the
smallest things because it should be one she could
have close to her ; and it should be one of the
finest because it was in the finest he saw his
280 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
symbol. She said to herself that of what it would
symbolise she was content to know nothing more
than just what her having it would tell her. At
bottom she inclined to the Maltese cross with
the added reason that he had named it. But she
would look again and' judge afresh ; she would on
the spot so handle and ponder that there shouldn't
be the shade of a mistake.
Before Christmas she had a natural opportunity
to go to London : there was her periodical call
upon her father to pay as well as a promise to
Maggie to redeem. She spent her first night in
West Kensington, with the idea of carrying out on
the morrow the purpose that had most of a motive.
Her father's affection was not inquisitive, but when
she mentioned to him that she had business in the
country that would oblige her to catch an early
train he deprecated her excursion in view of the
menace of the weather. It was spoiling for a
storm : all the signs of a winter gale were in the
air. She replied that she would see what the
morning might bring ; and it brought in fact what
seemed in London an amendment. She was to go
to Maggie the next day, and now that she started
her eagerness had become suddenly a pain. She
pictured her return that evening with her trophy
under her cloak ; so that after looking, from the
doorstep, up and down the dark street, she decided
with a new nervousness and sallied forth to the
nearest place of access to the " Underground." The
Pecember dawn was dolorous, but there was
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 281
neither rain nor snow ; it was not even cold, and
the atmosphere of West Kensington, purified by
the wind, was like a dirty old coat that had been
bettered by a dirty brush. At the end of almost
an hour, in the larger station, she had taken her
place in a third-class compartment ; the prospect
before her was the run of eighty minutes to
Poynton. The train was a fast one, and she was
familiar with the moderate measure of the walk to
the park from the spot at which it would drop,
Once in the country indeed she saw that her
father was right : the breath of December was
abroad with a force from which the London laby-
rinth had protected her. The green fields were
black, the sky was all alive with the wind; she
had, in her anxious sense of the elements, her
wonder at what might happen, a reminder of the
surmises, in the old days of going to the Continent,
that used to worry her on the way, at night, to the
horrid cheap crossings by long sea. Something,
in a dire degree, at this last hour, had begun to
press on her heart : it was the sudden imagination
of a disaster, or at least of a check, before her
errand was achieved. When she said to herself
that something might happen she wanted to go
faster than the train. But nothing could happen
save a dismayed discovery that, by some altogether
unlikely chance, the master and mistress of the
house had already come back. In that case she
282 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
must have had a warning, and the fear was but the
excess of her hope. It was every one's being
exactly where every one was that lent the quality
to her visit. Beyond lands and seas and alienated
forever, they in their different ways gave her the
impression to take as she had never taken it. At
last it was already there, though the darkness of
the day had deepened ; they had whizzed past
Chater Chater which was the station before the
right one. Off in that quarter was an air of wild
rain, but there shimmered straight across it a
brightness that was the colour of the great interior
she had been haunting. That vision settled before
her in the house the house was all ; and as the
train drew up she rose, in her mean compartment,
quite proudly erect with the thought that all
for Fleda Vetch then the house was standing
But with the opening of the door she encountered
a shock, though for an instant she couldn't have
named it : the next moment she saw it was given
her by the face of the man advancing to let her
out, an old lame porter of the station who had been
there in Mrs. Gereth's time and who now recog-
nised her. He looked up at her so hard that she
took an alarm and before alighting broke out to
him : " They've come back ? " She had a confused,
absurd sense that even he would know that in this
case she mustn't be there. He hesitated, and in a
few seconds her alarm had completely changed its
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 283
ground : it seemed to leap, with her quick jump
from the carriage, to the ground that was that of
his stare at her. " Smoke ? " She was on the
platform with her frightened sniff; it had taken
her a minute to become aware of an extraordinary
smell. The air was full of it, and there were
already heads at the windows of the train, looking
out at something she couldn't see. Some one, the
only other passenger, had got out of another car-
riage, and the old porter hobbled off to close his
door. The smoke was in her eyes, but she saw
the station-master, from the end of the platform,
identify her too and come straight at her. He
brought her a finer shade of surprise than the
porter, and while he was coming she heard a voice
at a window of the train say that something was
" a good bit off a mile from the town." That was
just what Poynton was. Then her heart stood
still at the white wonder in the station-master's
" You've come down to it, miss, already ? "
At this she knew. " Poynton's on fire ? "
" Gone, miss with this awful gale. You
weren't wired ? Look out ! " he cried in the
next breath, seizing her; the train was going on,
and she had given a lurch that almost made it
catch her as it passed. When it had drawn
away she became more conscious of the per-
vading smoke, which the wind seemed to hurl in
284 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
'''Gone?" She was in the man's hands; she
clung to him.
"Burning still, miss. Ain't it quite too dread-
ful ? Took early this morning the whole place
is up there."
In her bewildered horror she tried to think.
" Have they come back ? "
" Back ? They'll be there all day ! "
" Not Mr. Gereth, I mean nor his wife ? "
" Nor his mother, miss not a soul of them
back. A pack o' servants in charge not the
old lady's lot, eh ? A nice job for care-takers !
Some rotten chimley or one of them portable
lamps set down in the wrong place. What has
done it is this cruel, cruel night." Then as a
great wave of smoke half-choked them, he drew
her with force to the little waiting-room. " Awk-
ward for you, miss I see ! "
She felt sick; she sank upon a seat, staring
up at him. " Do you mean that great house is
"It was near it, I was told, an hour ago the
fury of the flames had got such a start. I was
there myself at six, the very first I heard of it.
They were fighting it then, but you couldn't
quite say they had got it down."
Fleda jerked herself up. " Were they saving
" That's just where it was, miss to get at the
blessed things. And the want of right help it
THE SPOILS OF POYNTON 285
maddened me to stand and see 'em muff it. This
ain't a place, like, for anything organised. They
don't come up to a reel emergency."
She passed out of the door that opened toward
the village, and met a great acrid gust. She
heard a far-off windy roar which, in her dismay,
she took for that of flames a mile away, and
which, the first instant, acted upon her as a wild
solicitation. " I must go there." She had scarcely
spoken before the same omen had changed into
an appalling check.
Her vivid friend moreover had got before her;
he clearly suffered from the nature of the control
he had to exercise. " Don't do that, miss you
won't care for it at all." Then as she waveringly
stood her ground : " It's not a place for a young
lady, nor, if you'll believe me, a sight for them
as are in any way affected."
Fleda by this time knew in what way she was
affected : she became limp and weak again ; she
felt herself give everything up. Mixed with the
horror, with the kindness of the station-master,
with the smell of cinders and the riot of sound
was the raw bitterness of a hope that she might
never again in life have to give up so much
at such short notice. She heard herself repeat
mechanically, yet as if asking it for the first time :
" Poynton's gone ? "
The man hesitated. "What can you call it,
miss, if it ain't really saved ? "
286 THE SPOILS OF POYNTON
A minute later she had returned with him to
the waiting-room, where, in the thick swim of
things, she saw something like the disc of a
clock. "Is there an up-train?" she asked.
" In seven minutes."
She came out on the platform: everywhere she
met the smoke. She covered her face with her
hands. " I'll go back."
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out a head and shoulders above its companions one work which promises to
make the year memorable. This year a promise of lasting vitality is distinctly
made by Mr. Hall Caine's Scapegoat. It is a great book, great in conception
and in execution ; a strong book, strong in situation and in character ; and
a human book, human in its pathos, its terror, and its passion.'
The Times. 'In our judgment it excels in dramatic force all the Author's
previous efforts. For grace and touching pathos Naomi is a character which
any romancist in the world might be proud to have created, and the tale of
her parents' despair and hopes, and of her own development, confers upon
The Scapegoat a distinction which is matchless of its kind.'
The Guardian. 'Mr. Hall Caine is undoubtedly master of a style which
is peculiarly his own. He is in a way a Rembrandt among novelists. His
figures, striking and powerful rather than beautiful, stand out, with the
ruggedness of their features developed and accentuated, from a background
of the deepest gloom. . . . Every sentence contains a thought, and every word
of it is balanced and arranged to accumulate the intensity of its force.'
The Athenaeum. ' It is a delightful story to read.'
The Academy. 'Israel ben Oliel is the third of a series of the most
profoundly conceived characters in modern fiction.'
The Saturday Review. 'This is the best novel which Mr. Caine has
The Literary World. 'The lifelike renderings of the varied situations,
the gradual changes in a noble character, hardened and lowered by the
world's cruel usage, and returning at last to its original grandeur, can only
be fully appreciated by a perusal of the book as a whole.'
The Anti-Jacobin. ' It is, in truth, a romance of fine poetic quality.
Israel Ben Oliel, the central figure of the tale, is sculptured rather than drawn :
a character of grand outline. A nobler piece of prose than the death of
Ruth we have seldom met with.'
The Scotsman. ' The new story will rank with Mr. Hall Caine's previous
productions. Nay, it will in some respects rank above them. It will take
its place by the side of the Hebrew histories in the Apocrypha. It is nobly
and manfully written. It stirs the blood and kindles the imagination.'
The Scottish Leader. ' The Scapegoat is a masterpiece.'
Truth. ' Mr. Hall Caine has been winning his way slowly, but surely,
and securely, I think also, to fame. You must by all means read his
absorbing Moorish romance, The Scapegoat?
The Jewish World. 'Only one who had studied Moses could have
drawn that grand portrait of Israel ben Oliel.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDI-ORD STREET, W.CX
THE HEAVENLY TWINS
BY SARAH GRAND
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Athenaeum. 'It is so full of interest, and the characters are so
eccentrically humorous yet true, that one feels inclined to pardon all its
faults, and give oneself up to unreserved enjoyment of it. ... The twins
Angelica and Diavolo, young barbarians, utterly devoid of all respect, con-
ventionality, or decency, are among the most delightful and amusing children
in fiction. '
The Academy. 'The adventures of Diavolo and Angelica the
"heavenly twins" are delightfully funny. No more original children were
ever put into a book. Their audacity, unmanageableness, and genius for
mischief in none of which qualities, as they are here shown, is there any
taint of vice are refreshing ; and it is impossible not to follow, with very
keen interest, the progress of these youngsters.'
The Daily Telegraph. ' Everybody ought to read it, for it is an inex-
haustible source of refreshing and highly stimulating entertainment.'
The World. 'There is much powerful and some beautiful writing in
this strange book. '
The Westminster Gazette. 'Sarah Grand ... has put enough obser
vation, humour, and thought into this book to furnish forth half-a-dozen
Punch. 'The Twins themselves are a creation : the epithet "Heavenly"
for these two mischievous little fiends is admirable.'
The Queen, 'There is a touch of real genius in The Heavenly Twins.'
The Guardian. ' Exceptionally brilliant in dialogue, and dealing with
modern society life, this book has a purpose to draw out and emancipate
The Lady. 'Apart from its more serious interest, the book should take
high rank on its literary merits alone. Its pages are brimful of good things,
and more than one passage, notably the episode of "The Boy and the
Tenor," is a poem complete in itself, and worthy of separate publication.'
The Manchester Examiner. 'As surely as Tess of the c? Urbervillei
swept all before it last year, so surely has Sarah Grand's Heavenly Twins
provoked the greatest attention and comment this season. It is a most
daringly original work. . . . Sarah Grand is a notable Woman's Righter,
but her book is the one asked for at Mudie's, suburban, and seaside libraries,
and discussed at every hotel table in the kingdom. The episode of the
" Tenor and the Boy" is of rare beauty, and is singularly delicate and at the
same time un-English in treatment.'
The New York Critic. ' It is written in an epigrammatic style, and,
besides its cleverness, has the great charaa of freshness, enthusiasm, and
poetic feeling. 1
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.G,
A STUDY FROM LIFE
BY SARAH GRAND
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Morning Post. 'Sarah Grand's Ideala. ... A clever book in
itself, is especially interesting when read in the light of her later works.
Standing alone, it is remarkable as the outcome of an earnest mind seeking
in good faith the solution of a difficult and ever present problem. . . . Ideala
is original and somewhat daring. . . . The story is in many ways delightful
The Literary World. 'When Sarah Grand came before the public in
1888 with Ideala^ she consciously and firmly laid her finger on one of the
keynotes of the age; . . . We welcome an edition that will place this minute
and careful study of an interesting question within reach of a wider circle of
The Liverpool Mercury. 'The book is a wonderful one an evangel
for the fair sex, and at once an inspiration and a comforting companion, to
which thoughtful womanhood will recur again and again. '
The Glasgow Herald. ' Ideala has attained the honour of a fifth
edition. . . . The stir created by The Heavenly Twins, the more recent
work by the same authoress, Madame Sarah Grand, would justify this step.
Ideala can, however, stand on its own merits.'
The Yorkshire Post. 'As a psychological study the book cannot fail to
be of interest to many readers. '
The Birmingham Gazette. ' Madame Sarah Grand thoroughly deserves
her success. Ideala, the heroine, is a splendid conception, and her opinions
are noble. . . . The book is not one to be forgotten.'
The Woman's Herald. ' One naturally wishes to Know something of
the woman for whose sake Lord Downe remained a bachelor. It must be
confessed that at first Ideala is a little disappointing. She is strikingly
original. ... As the story advances one forgets these peculiarities, and can
tind little but sympathy and admiration for the many noble qualities of a
very complex character.'
The Englishman. * Madame Sarah Grand's work is far from being a
common work. Ideala is a clever young woman of great capabilities and
noble purposes. . . . The orginality of the book does not lie in the plot, but
in the authoress's power to see and to describe the finer shades of a character
which Is erratic and impetuous, but above all things truly womanly.'
LONDON: WILLIAM" HEINEM ANN 21 BEDFORD STUKBT, W C.
OUR MANIFOLD NATURE
BY SARAH GRAND
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Daily Telegraph. ' Six stories by the gifted writer who still chooses
to be known to the public at large by the pseudonym of "Sarah Grand."
In regard to them it is sufficient to say that they display all the qualities,
stylistic, humorous, and pathetic, that have placed the author of Idcala and
The Heavenly Twins in the very front rank of contemporary novelists.'
The Globe. ' Brief studies of character, sympathetic, and suggesting that
" Sarah Grand " can do something more than startle by her unconventionality
The Ladies' Pictorial. 'If the volume does not achieve even greater
popularity than Sarah Grand's former works, it will be a proof that fashion,
and not intrinsic merit, has a great deal to do with the success of a book.'
The Pall Mall Gazette. 'All are eminently entertaining.'
The Spectator. 'Insight into, and general sympathy with widely
differing phases of humanity, coupled with power to reproduce what is seen,
with vivid distinct strokes, that rivet the attention, are qualifications foi
work of the kind contained in Our Manifold Nature which Sarah Grand
evidently possesses in a high degree. . . . All these studies, male and female
alike, are marked by humour, pathos, fidelity to life, and power to recognise
in human nature the frequent recurrence of some apparently incongruous
and remote trait, which, when at last it becomes visible, helps to a com-
prehension of what might otherwise be inexplicable.'
The Speaker. 'In Our Manifold Nature Sarah Grand is seen at her
best. How good that is can only be known by those who read for them-
selves this admirable little volume. In freshness of conception and originality
of treatment these stories are delightful, full of force and piquancy, whilst
the studies of character are carried out with equal firmness and delicacy.'
The Guardian. ' Our Manifold Nature is a clever book. Sarah Grand
has the power of touching common things, which, if it fails to make them
" rise to touch the spheres," renders them exceedingly interesting.'
The Morning Post. 'Unstinted praise is deserved by the Irish story,
"Boomellen," a tale remarkable both for power and pathos.'
The Court Journal. Our Manifold Nature is simply full of good things,
and it is essentially a book to buy as well as to read.'
The Birmingham Gazette. ' Mrs. Grand has genuine power. She
analyses keenly. . . . Her humour is good, and her delineation of character
one of her strongest points. The book is one to be read, studied, and acted
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BKDFORD STRRET, W.C.
BY ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Times. 'This is a novel of sensation. But the episodes and
incidents, although thrilling enough, are consistently subordinated to sensa-
tionalism of character. . . . There is just enough of the coral reef and the
palm groves, of cerulean sky and pellucid water, to indicate rather than to
present the local colouring. Yet when he dashes in a sketch it is done to
perfection. . . . We see the scene vividly unrolled before us.'
The Daily Telegraph. 'The story is full of strong scenes, depicted
with a somewhat lavish use of violet pigments, such as, perhaps, the stirring
situations demand. Here and there, however, are purple patches, in which
Mr. Stevenson shows all his cunning literary art the description of the
coral island, for instance. . . . Some intensely graphic and dramatic pages
delineate the struggle which causes, and a final scene . . . concludes this
strange fragment from the wild life of the South Sea.'
The St. James's Gazette. 'The book takes your imagination and
attention captive from the first chapter nay, from the first paragraph and it
does not set them free till the last word has been read.'
The Standard. ' Mr. Stevenson gives such vitality to his characters,
and so clear an outlook upon the strange quarter of the world to which he
takes us, that when we reach the end of the story, we come back to civilisa-
tion with a start of surprise, and a moment's difficulty in realising that we
have not been actually away from it.'
The Daily Chronicle. 'We are swept along without a pause on the
current of the animated and vigorous narrative. Each incident and adven-
ture is told with that incomparable keenness of vision which is Mr. Stevenson's
greatest charm as a story-teller.'
The Pall Mall Gazette. ' It is brilliantly invented, and it is not less
brilliantly told. There is not a dull sentence in the whole run of it. And
the style is fresh, alert, full of surprises in fact, is very good latter-day
The World. ' It is amazingly clever, full of that extraordinary know-
ledge of human nature which makes certain creations of Mr. Stevenson's pen
far more real to us than persons we have met in the flesh. Grisly the book
undoubtedly is, with a strength and a vigour of description hardly to be
matched in the language. ... But it is just because the book is so extra-
ordinarily good that it ought to be better, ought to be more of a serious whole
than a mere brilliant display of fireworks, though each firework display has
more genius in it than is to be found in ninety-nine out of every hundred
books supposed to contain that rare quality.'
The Morning Post. ' Boldly conceived, probing some of the darkest
depths of the human soul, the tale has a vigour and breadth of touch which
have been surpassed in none of Mr. Stevenson's previous works. . . . We
do not, of course, know how much Mr. Osbourne has contributed to the tale,
but there is no chapter in it which any author need be unwilling to acknow-
ledge, or which is wanting in vivid interest.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
BY I. ZANGWILL
With a Photogravure Portrait of the Author
In One Volume^ price 6s.
Morning- Post ' The merits of the book are great. Its range of observa-
tion is wide ; its sketches of character are frequently admirably drawn. . . .
It is extremely refreshing, after a surfeit of recent fiction of the prevalent type,
to welcome a really clever work by a writer who is certainly not hampered
by conventional prejudice.'
The Queen. 'It is impossible to deny the greatness of a book like The
Master^ a veritable human document, in which the characters do exactly as
they would in life. ... I venture to say that Matt himself is one of the most
striking and original characters in our fiction, and I have not the least doubt
that The Master will always be reckoned one of our classics.'
The Daily Chronicle.' It is a powerful and masterly piece of work. . .
Quite the best novel of the year.'
Literary World. ' In The Master % Mr. Zangwill has eclipsed all his
previous work. This strong and striking story of patience and passion, of
sorrow and success, of art, ambition, and vain gauds, is genuinely powerful
in its tragedy, and picturesque in its completeness. . . . The work, thoroughly
wholesome in tone, is of sterling merit, and strikes a truly tragic chord, which
leaves a deep impression upon the mind.'
Jewish World. ' For a novel to be a work that shall live, and not merely
please the passing taste of a section of the public, it must palpitate with the
truth of human experience and human feeling. . . . Such a novel is The
Master, Mr. Zangwill's latest, and assuredly one of his best works. Interest
in the story is sustained from beginning to end. From the first page to the
last we get a series of vivid pictures that make us feel, as well as understand,
not only the personality and environment of his characters, but the motives
that compel, like fate, their words and actions.'
Leeds Mercury. ' The Master is impassioned and powerful, and, in our
judgment, is vastly superior to Children of the Ghetto. From the first page to
the last the book is quick with life, and not less quick surprises. . . . The
impression which the book leaves is deep and distinct, and the power, from
start to finish, of such a delineation of life is unmistakable.'
Liverpool Mercury. ' The accomplished author of Children of the Ghetto
has given us in The Master a book written with marvellous skill, and charac-
terised by vivid imaginative power. It is not a volume to be taken up and
despatched in a leisure evening, but one to be studied and enjoyed in many
an hour of quiet, or to be read aloud in the family circle, when the toils of
the day have given place to retirement and peace.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO
A Study of a Peculiar People
BY I. ZANGWILL
In One Volume, price 6s.
The Times. ' From whatever point of view we regard it, it is a remark-
The Athenaeum. 'The chief interest of the book lies in the wonderful
description of the VVhitechapel Jews. The vividness and force with which
Mr. Zangwill brings before us the strange and uncouth characters with which
he has peopled his book are truly admirable. . . . Admirers of Mr. Zangwill's
fecund wit will not fail to find flashes of it in these pages.'
The Daily Chronicle. f Altogether we are not aware of any such minute,
graphic, and seemingly faithful picture of the Israel of nineteenth century
London. . . . The book has taken hold of us.'
The Spectator. ' Esther Ansell, Raphael Leon, Mrs. Henry Goldsmith,
Reb Shemuel, and the rest, are living creations.'
The Speaker.^' A strong and remarkable book.'
The National Observer. 'To ignore this book is not to know the East
The Guardian. 'A novel such as only our own day could produce. A
masterly study of a complicated psychological problem in which every factor
is handled with such astonishing dexterity and intelligence that again and
again we are tempted to think a really good book has come into our hands.'
The Graphic. 'Absolutely fascinating. Teaches how closely akin are
laughter and tears. '
Black and White. 'A moving panorama of Jewish life, full of truth, full
of sympathy, vivid in the setting forth, and occasionally most brilliant. Such
a book as this has the germs of a dozen novels. A book to read, to keep, to
ponder over, to remember.'
W. Archer in 'The World.' 'The most powerful and fascinating book
I have read for many a long day.'
Land and Water. 'The most wonderful multi-coloured and brilliant
description. Dickens has never drawn characters of more abiding indi-
viduality. An exceeding beautiful chapter is the honeymoon of the Hyams.
Charles Kingsley in one of his books makes for something of the same sort.
But his idea is not half so tender and faithful, nor his handling anything like
so delicate and natural.'
Andrew Lang in 'Longman's Magazine.' 'Almost every kind of
reader will find Children of the Ghetto interesting.'
T. P. O'Connor in 'The Weekly Sun.' 'Apart altogether from its
great artistic merits, from its clear portraits, its subtle and skilful analysis of
character, its pathos and its humour, this book has, in my mind, an immense
interest as a record of a generation that has passed and of struggles that are
yet going on.'
The Manchester Guardian. 'The best Jewish novel ever written.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
THE KING OF SCHNORRERS
Grotesques and Fantasies
BY I. ZANGWILL
With over Ninety Illustrations by PHIL MAY and Others
In One. Volume^ price 6s.
The Athenaeum. 'Several of Mr. Zangwill's contemporary Ghetto char-
acters have already become almost classical ; but in The King of Schnorrers
he goes back to the Jewish community of the eighteenth century for the
hero of his principal story ; and he is indeed a stupendous hero . . . anyhow,
he is well named the king of beggars. The illustrations, by Phil May, add
greatly to the attraction of the book. '
The Saturday Review. 'Mr. Zangwill has created a new figure in
fiction, and a new type of humour. The entire series of adventures is a
triumphant progress. . . . Humour of a rich and active character pervades
the delightful history of Manasses. Mr. Zangwill's book is altogether very
good reading. It is also very cleverly illustrated by Phil May and other
The Literary World. 'Of Mr. Zangwill's versatility there is ample
proof in this new volume of stories. . . . More noticeable and welcome to
us, as well as more characteristic of the author, are the fresh additions he has
made to his long series of studies of Jewish life.'
The St. James's Gazette. ' The King of Schnorrers is a very fascinating
story. Mr. Zangwill returns to the Ghetto, and gives us a quaint old-world
picture as a most appropriate setting for his picturesque hero, the beggar-
king. . . . Good as the story of the arch-schnorrer is, there is perhaps an
even better "Yiddish" tale in this book. This is "Flutter-Duck." . . .
Let us call attention to the excellence, as mere realistic vivid description, of
the picture of the room and atmosphere and conditions in which Flutter-Duck
and her circle dwelt ; there is something of Dickens in this. '
The Daily Telegraph.' The King of Schnorrers, like Children of the
Ghetto, depicts the habits and characteristics of Israel in London with pains-
taking elaborateness and apparent verisimilitude. The King of Schnorrers is
a character-sketch which deals with the manners and customs of native and
foreign Jews as they " lived and had their being" in the London of a century
and a quarter ago.'
The Daily Chronicle. ' It is a beautiful story. The King of Schnorrers
is that great rarity an entirely new thing, that is as good as it is new.'
The Glasgow Herald. 'On the whole, the book does justice to Mr.
Zangwill's rapidly-growing reputation, and the character of Manasseh ought
The World. ' The exuberant and even occasionally overpowering
humour of Mr. Zangwill is at his highest mark in his new volume, Tht
King of Schnorrtrs '
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
THE PREMIER AND THE PAINTER
BY I. ZANGWILL AND LOUIS COWEN
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Cambridge (University) Review. 'That the book will have
readers in a future generation we do not doubt, for there is much in it that is
of lasting merit. '
The Graphic. * It might be worth the while of some industrious and
capable person with plenty of leisure to reproduce in a volume of reasonable
size the epigrams and other good things witty and serious which The Premier
and the Painter contains. There are plenty of them, and many are worth
noting and remembering.'
St. James's Gazette. ' The satire hits all round with much impartiality ;
while one striking situation succeeds another till the reader is altogether
dazzled. The story is full of life and "go" and brightness, and will well
The Athenaeum. 'In spite of its close print and its five hundred pages
The Premier and tht Painter is not very difficult to read. To speak of it,
however, is difficult. It is the sort of book that demands yet defies quotation
for one thing ; and for another it is the sort of book the description of which
as " very clever " is at once inevitable and inadequate. In some ways it is
original enough to be a law unto itself, and withal as attractive in its-
whimsical, wrong-headed way, as at times it is tantalising, bewildering, even
tedious. The theme is politics and politicians, and the treatment, while for
the most part satirical and prosaic, is often touched with sentiment, and
sometimes even with a fantastic kind of poetry. The several episodes of the
story are wildly fanciful in themselves and are clumsily connected ; but the
streak of humorous cynicism which shows through all of them is both curious
and pleasing. Again, it has to be claimed for the author that as is shown
to admiration by his presentation of the excellent Mrs. Dawe and her cook-
shop he is capable, when he pleases, of insight and observation of a high
order, and therewith of a masterly sobriety of tone. But he cannot be
depended upon for the length of a single page ; he seeks his effects and his
material when and where he pleases. In some respects his method is not,
perhaps, altogether unlike Lord Beaconsfield's. To our thinking, however,
he is strong enough to go alone, and to go far.'
The World. 'Undeniably clever, though with a somewhat mixed and
The Morning Post 'The story is described as a "fantastic romance,"
and, indeed, fantasy reigns supreme from the first to the last of its pages. It
relates the history of our time with humour and well-aimed sarcasm. All the
most prominent characters of the day, whether political or otherwise, come in
for notice. The identity of the leading politicians is but thinly veiled, while
many celebrities appear in propria persona. Both the "Premier" and
"Painter" now and again find themselves in the most critical situations.
Certainly this is not a story that he who runs may read, but it is cleverly
original, and often lightened by bright flashes of wit.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
THE COUNTESS RADNA
BY W. E. NORRIS
In One Volume^ price 6.f.
The Times. ' He is a remarkably even writer. And this novel is almost
as good a medium as any other for studying the delicacy and dexterity of
The National Observer. 'Interesting and well written, as all Mr.
Norris's stories are.'
The Morning Post. 'The fidelity of his portraiture is remarkable, and
it has rarely appeared to so much advantage as in this brilliant novel.'
The Saturday Review. ' The Countess Radna, which its author not
unjustly describes as " an unpretending tale," avoids, by the grace of its style
and the pleasant accuracy of its characterisation, any suspicion of boredom.'
The Daily News. ' The Countess Radna contains many of the qualities
that make a story by this writer welcome to the critic. It is caustic in style,
the character drawing is clear, the talk natural ; the pages are strewn with
good things worth quoting.'
The Speaker. 'In style, skill in construction, and general "go," it is
worth a dozen ordinary novels.'
The Academy. 'As a whole, the book is decidedly well written, while
it is undeniably interesting. It is bright and wholesome : the work in fact
of a gentleman and a man who knows the world about which he writes.'
Black and White. 'The novel, like all Mr. Norris's work is an ex-
cessively clever piece of work, and the author never for a moment allows his
grasp of his plot and his characters to slacken.'
The Gentlewoman. 'Mr. Norris is a practised hand at his craft. He
can write bright dialogue and clear English, too.
The Literary World. 'His last novel, The Countess Radna, is an ex-
cellent sample of his style. The plot is simple enough. But the story
holds the attention and insists upon being read ; and it is scarcely possible
to say anything more favourable of a work of fiction.'
The Scotsman. 'The story, in which there is more than a spice of
modern life romance, is an excellent study of the problem of mixed marriage.
The book is one of good healthy reading, and reveals a fine broad view of life
and human nature.'
The Glasgow Herald. 'This is an unusually fresh and well-written
story. The tone is thoroughly healthy ; and Mr. Norris, without being in
the least old-fashioned, manages to get along without the aid of pessimism,
psychology, naturalism, or what is known as frank treatment of the relations
between the sexes.'
The Westminster Gazette. 'Mr. Norris writes throughout with much
liveliness and force, saying now and then something that is worth remember-
ing. And he sketches his minor characters with a firm touch.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
A VICTIM OF GOOD LUCK
BY W. E. NORRIS
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Speaker. * A Victim of Good Luck is one of those breezy stories of
his in which the reader finds himself moving in good society, among men
or women who are neither better nor worse than average humanity, but who
always show good manners and good breeding. . . . Suffice it to say that the
story is as readable as any we have yet had from the same pen.'
The Daily Telegraph.'^ Victim of Good Luck is one of the brightest
novels of the year, which cannot but enhance its gifted author's well-deserved
fame and popularity.'
The World. ' Here is Mr. Norris in his best form again, giving us an
impossible story with such imperturbable composure, such quiet humour,
easy polish, and irresistible persuasiveness, that he makes us read A Victim
of Good Luck right through with eager interest and unflagging amusement
without being aware, until we regretfully reach the end, that it is just a
farcical comedy in two delightful volumes.'
The Daily Chronicle. 'It has not a dull page from first to last. Any
one with normal health and taste can read a book like this with real pleasure.'
The Globe. 'Mr. W. E. Norris is a writer who always keeps us on
good terms with ourselves. We can pick up or lay down his books at will,
but they are so pleasant in style and equable in tone that we do not usually
lay them down till we have mastered them ; A Victim of Good Luck is a
more agreeable novel than most of this author's.'
The Westminster Gazette. ' A Victim of Good Luck is in Mr. Norris's
best vein, which means that it is urbane, delicate, lively, and flavoured
with a high quality of refined humour. Altogether a most refreshing book,
and we take it as a pleasant reminder that Mr. Norris is still very near
his highwater mark. '
The Spectator. ' Mr. Norris displays to the full his general command of
narrative expedients which are at once happily invented and yet quite natural
which seem to belong to their place in the book, just as a keystone belongs
to its place in the arch. . . . The brightest and cleverest book which Mr.
Norris has given us since he wrote The Rogue.'
The Saturday Review. 'Novels which are neither dull, unwholesome,
morbid, nor disagreeable, are so rare in these days, that A Victim of Good
Luck . . . ought to find a place in a book-box filled for the most part with
light literature. . . . We think it will increase the reputation of an already
very popular author.'
The Scotsman. ' A Victim of Good Luck, like others of this author's
books, depends little on incident and much on the conception and drawing of
character, on clever yet natural conversation, and on the working out, with
masterly ease, of a novel problem of right and inclination. '
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
THE POTTER'S THUMB
BY FLORA ANNIE STEEL
In One Volume , price 6s.
The Pall Mall Budget ' For this week the only novel worth mentioning
is Mrs. Steel's The Potter's Thumb. Her admirable From the Five Rivers,
since it dealt with native Indian life, was naturally compared with Mr.
Kipling's stories. In The Potter's Thumb the charm which came from the
freshness of them still remains. Almost every character is convincing, and
some of them excellent to a degree. '
The Globe. 'This is a brilliant story a story that fascinates, tingling
with life, steeped in sympathy with all that is best and saddest.'
The Manchester Guardian. ' The impression left upon one after reading
The Potter's Thumb is that a new literary artist, of very great and unusual
gifts, has arisen. ... In short, Mrs. Steel must be congratulated upon having
achieved a very genuine and amply deserved success.'
The Glasgow Herald. 'A clever story which, in many respects, brings
India very near to its readers. The novel is certainly one interesting alike to
the Anglo-Indian and to those untra veiled travellers who make their only
voyages in novelists' romantic company.'
The Scotsman. ' It is a capital story, full of variety and movement, which
brings with great vividness before the reader one of the phases of Anglo-
Indian life. Mrs. Steel writes forcibly and sympathetically, and much of the
charm of the picture which she draws lies in the force with which she brings
out the contrast between the Asiatic and European world. The Potter's
Thumb is very good reading, with its mingling of the tragedy and comedy
of life. Its evil woman par excellence ... is a finished study.'
The Westminster Gazette. 'A very powerful and tragic story. Mrs.
Steel gives us again, but with greater elaboration than before, one of those
strong, vivid, and subtle pictures of Indian life which we have learnt to expect
from her. To a reader who has not been in India her books seem to get
deeper below the native crust, and to have more of the instinct for the Oriental
than almost anything that has been written in this time.'
The Leeds Mercury. ' The Potter's Thumb is a powerful story of the
mystical kind, and one which makes an instant appeal to the imagination of
the reader. . . . There is an intensity of vision in this story which is as re-
markable as it is rare, and the book, in its vivid and fascinating revelations of
life, and some of its limitations, is at once brilliant and, in the deepest and
therefore least demonstrative sense, impassioned.'
The National Observer. 'A romance of East and West, in which the
glamour, intrigue, and superstition of India are cunningly interwoven and
artfully contrasted with the bright and changeable aspects of modern European
society. " Love stories," as Mr. Andrew Lang once observed, "are best done
by women" ; and Mrs. Steel's treatment of Rose Tweedie's love affair with
Lewis Gordon is a brilliant instance in point. So sane and delightful an
episode is rare in fiction now-a-days.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, ai BRDPORD STREET, W.C.
FROM THE FIVE RIVERS
BY FLORA ANNIE STEEL
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Times. 'Time was when these sketches of native Punjabi society
would have been considered a curiosity in literature. They are sufficiently
remarkable, even in these days, when interest in the "dumb millions" of
India is thoroughly alive, and writers, great and small, vie in ministering to it.
They are the more notable as being the work of a woman. Mrs. Steel has
evidently been brought into close contact with the domestic life of all classes,
Hindu and Mahomedan, in city and village, and has steeped herself in their
customs and superstitions. . . . Mrs. Steel's book is of exceptional merit
Vanity Fair. ' Stories of the Punjaub evidently the work of one who
has an intimate knowledge of, and a kindly sympathy for, its people. It is
to be hoped that this is not the last book of Indian stories that Mrs. Steel
will give us. '
The Spectator. 'Merit, graphic force, and excellent local colouring are
conspicuous in Mrs. Steel's From the Five Rivers, and the short stories of which
the volume is composed are evidently the work of a lady who knows what
she is writing about.'
The Glasgow Herald. ' This is a collection of sketches of Hindu life, full
for the most part of brilliant colouring and cleverly wrought in dialect. The
writer evidently knows her subject, and she writes about it with unusual
The North British Daily Mail. 'In at least two of the sketches in Mrs.
Steel's book we have a thoroughly descriptive delineation of life in Indian, or
rather, Hindoo, villages. " Ganesh Chunel " is little short of a masterpiece,
and the same might be said of " Shah Sujah's Mouse." In both we are made
the spectator of the conditions of existence in rural India. The stories are
told with an art that conceals the art of story-telling.'
The Athenaeum. 'They possess this great merit, that they reflect the
habits, modes of life, and ideas of the middle and lower classes of the popula-
tion of Northern India better than do systematic and more pretentious works.'
The Leeds Mercury. ' By no means a book to neglect. . . . It is written
with brains. . . . Mrs. Steel understands the life which she describes, and she
has sufficient literary art to describe it uncommonly well. These short
stories of Indian life are, in fact, quite above the average of stories long or
short. . . . There is originality, insight, sympathy, and a certain dramatic
instinct in the portrayal of character about the book.'
The Globe. ' She puts before us the natives of our Empire in the East as
they live and move and speak, with their pitiful superstitions, their strange
fancies, their melancholy ignorance of what poses with us for knowledge and
civilisation, their doubt of the new ways, the new laws, the new people.
" Shah Sujah's Mouse," the gem of the collection a touching tale of
unreasoning fidelity torrards an English " Sinny Baba" is a tiny bit of
LONDON WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BBDFORD STREET, W.C
THE LAST SENTENCE
BY MAXWELL GRAY
Author of ' The Silence of Dean Maitland,' etc.
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Standard . ' The Last Sentence is a remarkable story ; it abounds
with dramatic situations, the interest never for a moment flags, and the
characters are well drawn and consistent.'
The Saturday Review. ' There is a great deal as well as a great variety
of incident in the story, and more than twenty years are apportioned to it ; but
it never seems over-crowded, nor has it the appearance of several stories rolled
into one. The Last Sentence is a remarkable novel, and the more so because
its strong situations are produced without recourse to the grosser forms of
The Daily Telegraph. 'One of the most powerful and adroitly- worked-
out plots embodied in any modern work of fiction runs through The Last
Sentence. . . . This terrible tale of retribution is told with well -sustained force
and picturesqueness, and abounds in light as well as shade.'
The Morning Post. 'Maxwell Gray has the advantage of manner that is
both cultured and picturesque, and while avoiding even the appearance of the
melodramatic, makes coming events cast a shadow before them so as to excite
and entertain expectation. ... It required the imagination of an artist to
select the kind of Nemesis which finally overtakes this successful evil-doer, and
which affords an affecting climax to a rather fascinating tale. '
The Glasgow Herald. ' This is a very strong story. ... It contains much
rich colouring, some striking situations, and plenty of thoroughly living
characters. The interest is of a varied kind, and, though the hero is an
aristocrat, the pictures of human life are by no means confined to the upper
The Leeds Mercury. 'It shows a command of the resources of the
novelist's art which is by no means common, and it has other qualities which
lift it far above the average level of the circulating library. It is written with
a literary grace and a moral insight which are seldom at fault, and from first
to last it is pervaded with deep human interest. '
The Queen. 'Maxwell Gray has a certain charm and delicacy of style.
She has mastered the subtleties of a particular type of weak character until
she may be almost called its prophet.'
The Lady's Pictorial. 'The book is a clever and powerful one. . . .
Cynthia Marlowe will live in our memories as a sweet and noble woman ; one
of whom it is a pleasure to think of beside some of the 'emancipated ' heroines
so common in the fiction of the day.'
The Manchester Courier. ' The author of The Silence of Dean Maitland
gives to the reading world another sound and magnificent work. ... In both
these works Maxwell Gray has taken " Nemesis " as his grand motif. In each
work there sits behind the hero that atra cura which poisons the wholesome
draught of human joy. In each is present the corroding blight that comes
of evil done and not discovered. '
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
A Tale of West and East
BY RUDYARD KIPLING AND WOLCOTT BALESTIER
In One Volume, price 6s.
The Athenaeum. 'There is no one but Mr. Kipling who can make his
readers taste and smell, as well as see and hear, the East ; and in this book
(if we except the description of Tarvin's adventures in the deserted city of
Gunvaur, which is perhaps less clear-cut than usual) he has surely surpassed
himself. In his faculty for getting inside the Eastern mind and showing its
queer workings Mr. Kipling stands alone.'
The Academy. ' The Naulahka contains passages of great merit.
There are descriptions scattered through its pages which no one but Mr.
Kipling could have written. . . Whoever reads this novel will find much of
it hard to forget . . . and the story of the exodus from the hospital will rank
among the best passages in modern fiction.'
The Times. 'A happy idea, well adapted to utilize the respective ex-
perience of the joint authors. . . . An excellent story. . . . The dramatic train
of incident, the climax of which is certainly the interview between Sitabhai
and Tarvin, the alternate crudeness and ferocity of the girl-queen, the
susceptibility of the full-blooded American, hardly kept in subjection by his
alertness and keen eye to business, the anxious eunuch waiting in the distance
with the horses, and fretting as the stars grow paler and paler, the cough of
the tiger slinking home at the dawn after a fruitless night's hunt the whole
forms a scene not easily effaced from the memory.'
The Glasgow Herald. 'An entrancing story beyond doubt. . . . The
design is admirable to bring into violent contrast and opposition the widely
differing forces of the Old World and the New and while, of course, it
could have been done without the use of Americanese, yet that gives a
wonderful freshness and realism to the story. The design is a bold one, and
it has been boldly carried out. . . . The interest is not only sustained through-
out, it is at times breathless. . . . The Maharajah, the rival queens, the
pomp and peril of Rhatore, are clearly Mr. Kipling's own, and some of the
Indian chapters are in his best style.'
The Speaker. ' In the presentation of Rhatore there is something of the
old Kiplingesque glamour ; it is to the pages of Mr. Kipling that one must
go for the strange people and incidents of the royal household at Rhatore.
.... It is enough to say that the plotting of that most beautiful and most
wicked gipsy, Sitabhai is interesting ; that Sitabhai is well created ; and that
the chapter which describes her secret meeting with Tarvin is probably the
finest and the most impressive in the book.'
The Bookman. ' The real interest of the book is in the life behind the
curtains of the Maharajah's palace. The child Kunwar, his mother, the
forsaken Zulu queen, the gipsy with her wicked arts, are pictures of Indiar
life, which even Mi. Kipling has not surpassed.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
BY PERCY WHITE
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Speaker. ' In his first book, Mr. Bailey -Martin, Mr. White gave
us a remarkable picture of the sordidness of life in a suburban household. In
the present volume he rises to a higher social level, and treats of rising members
of Parliament, of political leaders, and even of Prime Ministers. ... The
sketches of types are both forcible and true.'
The Pall Mall Gazette. 'None can travel over his brightly-written
pages without being gladdened by the little flashes of epigram which light up
the scene for us, or stirred by the shrewdness and worldly wisdom which he
has put into the mouths of his characters. One of the charms of the book
lies in the conviction that its author knows the world, and is full of a broad,
full knowledge, and therefore sympathy with the foibles, passions, and sins
with which it abounds. ... It is a sermon preached on the old ^Eschylian
text, that the evil doer must always suffer. The book is a drama of biting
intensity, a tragedy of inflexible purpose and relentless result.'
The Daily News. ' Will appeal to many tastes. There is intrigue
enough in it for those who love a story of the ordinary kind, and the political
part is perhaps rather more attractive in its sparkle and variety of incident
than the real thing itself.'
The Daily Telegraph. * Corruption more than fulfils the brilliant pro-
mise of Mr. Bailey -Martin. ... As its title indicates, it deals with the political
and social cankers of the day, which it lays bare with a fearless and unerring
The Standard. 'The scenes in the South of France are particularly well
done ; without any attempt at local colour Mr. White has caught the atmos-
phere skilfully, and there are one or two clever touches of which he appears
unconscious. Taking the book as a whole, it is written with ease and know-
ledge, and has about it nothing of the amateur.'
The Graphic. ' A very able piece of work.'
Black and White. 'The risque* situation is wrought with brilliance and
subtilty. . . . Mrs. Mannering recalls Becky Sharp ; and Carew is a typical
man of the day. . . . Mr. Percy White assuredly takes rank with the foremost
of the society writers.'
The Globe. 'A graphic picture of social life.'
The Glasgow Herald. ' The characters are well conceived and cleverly
portrayed ; the dialogue is crisp and sparkling. There is not a dull moment
in the volume.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
BY PERCY WHITE
With a Photogravure Portrait of the Author
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Times. ' Mr. White has written an audacious book.'
The Athenaeum. ' Mr. White, with the aid of the necessary qualitie
dry humour and delicate irony succeeds nearly all the time. . . . The char-
acter is one exceedingly difficult to portray. . . . Mr. White has resisted the
temptation to force and exaggerate the note, and this is probably the secret of
The Speaker. 'There is cleverness enough in Mr. Bailey-Martin to
furnish forth a dozen novels. ... It shows not only a remarkable knowledge
of contemporary life, but a keen insight into character, and a considerable
degree of literary power.'
The Daily Telegraph. * The book teems with smart sayings and graphic
characterisations, and cannot fail to make a mark among the cleverest novels
of the year.'
The Daily Chronicle. ' The book must be pronounced a well-nigh un-
The Literary World. ' Mr. Bailey-Martin is one of those books whose
opportune arrival serves to reconcile the critic to his task. . . . Bright, fresh,
vigorous in action, and told with a wealth of incident and humour.'
The New Budget, in a criticism on Mr. Percy White as a novelist t says:
' In my opinion, you are by far the cleverest of the younger or shall I say,
youngest ? generation of writers, with the exception, perhaps, of Mr. Street
. . . Your prose possesses in a high degree what I may call the lyrical note.
At times you write like a poet rather than a writer of prose. . . . You serve
in no school, and imitate no man. ... In Mr. Bailey- Martin^ though you
write with an affectation of wholly dispassionate observation of your snob and
his set, there is underlying that attitude a measureless contempt for your hero
(if I may call him so) and his friends, which bites like an acid.'
The National Observer. ' Admirably clever, and deserving to be read by
those who are bored with the average novel.'
The Bookman. ' One of the cleverest novels we have seen for many a
day. . . . Take away from the average man a little of his affectation, and all
his responsibilities ; add some impudence, and the production of a Bailey-
Martin is highly probable. We congratulate Mr. White on the vigour and
vitality of his novel.'
The Scotsman. ' When it is remembered that this story is told by Mr.
Bailey-Martin himself, and with a great air of verisimilitude, it will be seen
how able the book is as a piece of literature. ... It will interest and enter-
tain every one who takes it up.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
BY HENRY JAMES
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Times. ' All the stories are told by a man whose heart and soul are
in his profession of literature.'
The Morning 1 Post. 'The discriminating will not fail to recognise in
the tales composing this volume workmanship of a very high order and a
wealth of imaginative fancy that is, in a measure, a revelation.'
The Athenaeum. * The appearance of Terminations will in no way shake
the general belief in Mr. Henry James's accomplished touch and command of
material. On the contrary, it confirms conclusions long since foregone, and
will increase the respect of his readers. . . . With such passages of trenchant
wit and sparkling observation, surely in his best manner, Mr. James ought to
be as satisfied as his readers cannot fail to be.'
The Daily News. 'Mr. James is a critic of life rather than a maker of
stories ; his appeal is more to the intellect than to the imagination. Termina-
tions is a collection of four stories written with that choiceness and conciseness
of phrase that distinguishes the work of the literary artist. . . . The Altar of
the Dead is more mystic and imaginative. Mr. James finds phrases that
express incomparably well the more spiritual longings of our nature, and this
story is full of tender suggestiveness.'
The Pall Mall Gazette.' What strikes one, in fact, in every corner of
Mr. James's work is his inordinate cleverness. These four tales are so clever,
that one can only raise one's hands in admiration. The insight, the sympathy
with character, the extraordinary observation, and the neat and dexterous
phrasing these qualities are everywhere visible.'
The Scotsman. 'All the stories are peculiar and full of a rare interest.'
The Manchester Guardian.' ... But with The Altar of the Dead
it is far otherwise. To attempt to criticise a creation so exquisite, so instinct
with the finest and purest human feeling, so penetrated with the fastidious
distinction of a sensitive spirit, would indeed be superfluous, if not impertinent
On its own lines, we know of no more beautiful, truer prose poem in the
English language, and to have written it is to have formulated a claim to
recollection which we do not think will be lightly set aside.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
BY C. F. KEARY
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The National Observer. ' Clever characterisation, natural dialogue,
moral sanity, and keen observation and knowledge of the world. . . . The
minor characters are as diverse as they are numerous, and there is not a lay
figure in the book.'
The Daily News. 'Herbert Vanlennert is good throughout. The
analysis of the hero's character is excellent. The story is crowded with minor
characters, all clearly individualised and seen in nice relation to their sur-
roundings. There is much power of observation, much knowledge of life and
art displayed throughout.'
The Pall Mall Gazette.' A piece of life and a work of art. . . . Mr.
Keary's men and women are solid all through. He is as honest in his presen-
tation of life as Mr. Gissing, but he is more pointed and wittier ; he is less
witty than Mr. Meredith, but he is more responsible. . . . Mr. Keary's work
stands out as a very brilliant piece of honest, knowledgable, wise artistry. We
say it deliberately, that there are very few novels of our time that bear so
unmistakably the grip of the master-hand as Herbert Vanlennert.'
The St. James's Gazette. ' A novel like this helps us at once to under-
stand, to judge, and to enjoy life ; and that is to say that he has written a
novel of the kind that only the great novelists write. From time to time there
comes a new novel marked by a kind and degree of excellence that compels
praise of an emphatic kind. There need be no hesitation about deciding that
Herbert Vanlennert is such a book. 1
The Review of Reviews. ' In Herbert Vanlennert indeed is a whole
little world of living people friends and acquaintances whom it is not easy to
The Sketch. ' Full of cleverness and a legitimate realism. Of two of the
most strongly marked and skilfully drawn characters, one is Maynard, the
artist of genius ; the other, a striking contrast to Maynard, is Bernard, who
passes a serene existence in the study of metaphysics. Very charming and
interesting are Mr. Keary's bright and vivid descriptions of English country
life and scenery in Derbyshire.'
St. Paul's. 'The book contains much clever writing, and is in many
respects a strong one.'
Black and White. 'There is abundance of skilfully drawn characters
and brilliantly sketched incidents, which, once read, cannot be forgotten.'
The Scotsman. ' Mr. Keary, even when he is treading on delicate
ground, writes with circumspection and cleverness.'
The Bradford Observer. ' It is a fine piece of art, and should touch its
readers to fine issues.'
The Manchester Courier. 'The book is most interesting, and embodies
a great deal of careful work, besides some very plain speaking.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
THE YEARS THAT THE LOCUST
BY ANNIE E. HOLDSWORTH
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Literary World. 'The novel is marked by great strength, which
is always under subjection to the author's gift of restraint, so that we are made
to feel the intensity all the more. Pathos and humour (in the true sense) go
together through these chapters ; and for such qualities as earnestness, insight,
moral courage, and thoughtfulness, The Years that the Locust hath Eaten
stands out prominently among noteworthy books of the time. '
The Daily News. ' Bears out to the full the promise given by Joanna
Traill, Spinster. The author has a genuine sense of humour and an eye for
character, and if she bids us weep at the tragedy of life and death, she makes
us smile by her pleasant handling of human foible and eccentricities.'
The Standard. 'A worthy successor to Joanna Traill, Spinster. It is
quite as powerful. It has insight and sympathy and pathos, humour, and
some shrewd understanding of human nature scattered up and down its pages.
Moreover, there is beauty in the story and idealism. . . . Told with a humour,
a grace, a simplicity, that ought to give the story a long reign. . . . The
charm of the book is undeniable ; it is one that only a clever woman, full of
the best instincts of her sex, could have written.'
The Review of Reviews.' It has all the charm and simplicity of treat-
ment which gave its predecessor (Joanna Traill, Spinster} its vogue.'
The Pall Mall Gazette. ' The book should not be missed by a fastidious
The Court Journal. 'The moral of the book is excellent; the style
strong and bold.
The Scotsman. 'The story is well told, and a vein of humour serves to
bring the pathos into higher relief.'
The Manchester Guardian. ' It is sincere and conscientious, and it
shows appreciation of the value of reticence.'
The Manchester Courier. 'The book is full of delicate touches of
characterisation, and is written with considerable sense of style.'
The Glasgow Herald. 'Worked out with great skill and success. . . .
The story is powerfully told.'
The Liverpool Mercury. 'The story is told with sympathy and pathos,
and the concluding chapters are touching in the extreme.'
The Birmingham Gazette. 'A sad story beautifully written, containing
pure thoughts and abundant food for reflection upon the misery which exists in
the world at the present day. The tale is particularly pathetic, but it is true
in character. It will be read with interest.'
The Leeds Mercury. ' Full of powerful situations.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C
IN HASTE AND AT LEISURE
BY E. LYNN LINTON
In One Volume, price 6s.
The Speaker. ' Mrs. Lynn Linton commands the respect of her readers
and critics. Her new story, In Haste and at Leisure, is as powerful a piece
of writing as any that we owe to her pen.'
The St. James's Budget. 'A thorough mistress of English, Mrs. Lynn
Linton uses the weapons of knowledge and ridicule, of sarcasm and logic, with
powerful effect ; the shallow pretences of the " New Woman " are ruthlessly
The Literary World. ' Whatever its exaggerations may be, In Haste and
at Leisure remains a notable achievement. It has given us pleasure, and we
can recommend it with confidence.'
The Court Journal. 'The book is a long but brilliant homily and series
of object-lessons against the folly and immorality of the modern craze of the
most advanced women, who rail against men, marriage, and maternity. The
book is immensely powerful, and intensely interesting.'
The Daily Graphic. ' It is an interesting story, while it is the most
tremendous all-round cannonade to which the fair emancipated have been
The World. ' It is clever, and well written.'
The Graphic. ' It is thoroughly interesting, and it is full of passages that
almost irresistibly tempt quotation.'
The St. James's Gazette.' It is a novel that ought to be, and will be,
widely read and enjoyed.'
The Globe. ' It is impossible not to recognise and acknowledge its great
The Glasgow Herald. '/ Haste and at Leisure is a striking and even
The Manchester Courier. 'In this cruelly scientific analyses of the
" New Woman," Mrs. Lynn Linton writes with all the bitterness of Dean
Swift. The book is one of remarkable power.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
BY F. MABEL ROBINSON
In One Volume, price 6s.
The Saturday Review. ' Every page of it is worth reading. The author
sets herself to write a fascinating book, and, in our opinion, has undoubtedly
The World. 'There are good things in this novel; excellent character-
drawing, some forcibly realistic chapters in the life of a common soldier.'
The Daily News. 'The story is skilfully constructed, and will certainly
add to Miss Robinson's reputation.'
The Daily Chronicle.' Miss Robinson writes but little, and writes that
little carefully. . . . Herein also is Miss Robinson true to life, and not false
The Realm. 'The story is powerfully written. It is worth reading.'
The Standard. 'All the vicissitudes of Treganna's career are interesting,
and are vividly told.'
The Lady. 'A story of exceptional power and absorbing interest, earnest,
forcible, intensely human, and of high literary merit.'
The Observer. ' The book is very ably written, and it is well worth
The Globe. ' There are in this book much power of observation, a relent
less truthfulness, and a recognition of the value of detail. It should enchain
the attention of the most callous reader.'
The Sunday Times. ' A remarkably clever sketch of a man's life and
character. . . . The literary workmanship is good without being laboured.
. . . We wish it the appreciation, not only of those who can distinguish good
literature, but of those who prefer the good from the bad.'
Black and White. 'An original plot vigorously treated.'
The Daily Graphic, ' The whole story of the relations between Joseph
Trcganna and Fanny Star is very human, and handled with a breadth and
understanding which very few women novelists of the day could hope to rival,
while the gradual abandonment by the man of the outposts whereon he has
planted his colours is admirable in its inevitableness.'
Woman. 'A superb novel, strong and full of life, packed with observation
and humour of the deep subcutaneous sort.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
THE STORY OF
A MODERN WOMAN
BY ELLA HEPWORTH DIXON
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Times. ' Miss Dixon shows herself no ineffective satirist of the shams
and snobbishness of society.'
The Academy. ' No one who reads The Story of a Modern Woman will
be likely to gainsay the excellence of its writing, and the genuine talent shown
by Miss Dixon.'
The Pall Mall Gazette. ' A subtle study, written by a woman, about a
woman, and from the point of view of a distinctly clever and modern woman
herself. . . . Miss Dixon has scored a great success in the treatment of her
Vanity Fair. ' The main thread of the story is powerful and pathetic; but
there are lighter touches, wit and humour, and here and there what seem like
shadows of people we have seen and known. ... In a word, a book to buy,
to read, and to enjoy.'
Black and White.' The social sketches, with which this little story of
modern, literary, fashionable, and Bohemian London is full, are very cleverly
The Graphic. ' Miss Ella Hepworth Dixon has inherited no small share
of her father's literary gifts, and she adds to it a faculty of observation, and a
constructive and narrative skill, which are of considerable promise.'
The National Observer. ' She writes well, and shows not a little power
of drawing character, and even of constructing a story.'
The Sketch. ' Miss Dixon's style excels in delicate vignettes, full of
suggestion, and marked, above all, by that artistic restraint which is such an
agreeable contrast to the fluency of the average woman-novel. '
St. James's Gazette. ' Miss Hepworth Dixon knows how to write. . . .
She can say what she wants to say in a sound, clear style, which (especially
in the descriptive passages) is occasionally very felicitous and expressive.
Altogether, A Modern Woman is a work which will better repay reading than
most of the novels of the season.'
Illustrated London News. 'A story of which so much can truthfully be
said is a contribution to art as well as to the circulating library, a conjunction
which, in these days of British fiction, is surprising.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
A SELF-DENYING ORDINANCE
BY M. HAMILTON
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Athenaeum. 'The characters are exceptionally distinct, the move-
ment is brisk, and the dialogue is natural and convincing.'
The Pall Mall Gazette. 'Joanna Conway is on distinctly new lines,
and it has given us pleasure to follow her spicy, attractive personality through
all the phases of her carefully, finely-depicted evolution.'
The National Observer. 'A remarkably life-like picture of English
society. The author is a keen observer. The writing is above the average.'
The Daily Chronicle. ' An excellent novel. Joanna Conway is one of
the most attractive figures in recent fiction. It is no small tribute to the
author's skill that this simple country girl, without beauty or accomplishments,
is from first to last so winning a personality. The book is full of excellent
Black and White. ' Some pleasant hours may be passed in following the
fortunes of Joanna, the charming heroine of M.IIamilton's A Self-Denying
Ordinance. The book is well written, and holds the attention from start to
finish. The characters are true to life.'
The Methodist Times. ' The story retains its interest throughout. It
contains some vividly-drawn delineations of character.'
Woman. 'Contains the finest, surest, subtlest character drawing that
England has had from a new writer for years and years past.'
Public Opinion. 'A well written and fascinating novel. It is a clever
sketch of life in its different phases. . . . "Every personage strikes one as
being richly endowed with individuality." '
The Manchester Courier. ' A decided success. There are such women
as Joanna Conway in the world, though, unfortunately, not so many as are
required ; but there are few writers of the present day who can do justice to
such a character, so poetical, and yet so practical. . . . There is humour in
the book : the scene is chiefly in Ireland, and who can truly write of Ireland
without humour ? but the greatest charm is in the wonderful tenderness, in
the womanly chivalry which renders so true the title of a self-denying
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
BY FRANK HARRIS
In One Volume, price 6s.
The Times. 'Ably conceived, and ably-written stories. . . . Mr. Frank
Harris has proved himself at once a subtle and effective writer of fiction.'
The National Observer. ' Mr. Harris's work leaves on the mind a vivid
impression. All the stories in the volume are well written and admirably
The Academy. ' Page after page glows with masterly invention, tender
pathos, excellent wit : attributes belonging to the magicians of fiction. . Its
cleverness is often near akin to absolute genius ; the dexterity of the writer
evokes not only surprises, but rare pleasure.'
The Pall Mall Gazette. * The characters are clearly defined and com-
bined with great skill ; they breathe genuineness and truth. There is force
and pathos, too, in the story of Bancroft and Loo Conklin.'
The Review of Reviews. 'There is a force and a charm, a vividness
and an originality about these tales which give them a high, if not the highest,
place in the literature of that kind which has been produced in the last few
years. Not only is there a genius in the presentation of the human types
which are described, but they display a closeness of observation and a keenness
of insight into the heart of things which only those who have studied western
civilisation in the making can appreciate.'
The Westminster Gazette . ' The stories are masterpieces. They grip
like life. And they live with one after, as living realities.'
The Sketch. ' There is good workmanship in Mr. Harris's volume, shown
not merely in the vigorous story-telling. The inner idea in the tales is carefully
wrought, and it will find a response among all readers who love sincerity.'
The Bookman. 'Elder Conklin is a masterly picture of heroism and
paternal love, of rare intensity and refinement, co-existing with capacities for
hideous selfishness and cruelty.'
The Glasgow Herald. 'Mr. Harris's excellent stories may be heartily
recommended to all.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STRERT, W.C.
AT THE GATE OF SAMARIA
BY W. J. LOCKE
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Times. ' In a sense this novel is belated, being a straggler from the
procession of books more or less directly concerned with the New Woman.
This is a pity, for it is perhaps the best of the novels that have vindicated or
mocked at that tiresome female. . . . Still it may be allowed that here we
meet with less cant, less rancour, less prurience, less affectation of omniscience,
more genuine philosophy, and a more careful style and more real literary
power than in any other novel of the same school.'
The Athenaeum. ' The character-drawing is distinctly good. All the
personages stand out well defined with strongly marked individualities.'
The Morning Post. ' Clytie is made undeniably sympathetic, while the
author's pictures of Bohemian life are bright and graphic.'
The Pall Mall Gazette.' The merit of the book lies in the description
of the life of Clytie Davenant (the heroine) as an artist in London, of her
friendship with Kent, her wooing by Thornton Hammerdyke, and the struggles
of her married life. All this is portrayed, not in the grand style, but soberly,
truthfully, and on the whole effectively.'
The Daily Chronicle. 'This clever and somewhat audacious story. . . .
We congratulate W. J. Locke, and shall be surprised if the reception accorded
to his book is not such as to cause him to congratulate himself.'
The Review of Reviews. ' Here is a tale of women's life in London in the
present year, of varied societies, of a husband's brutality, and of a woman's
fidelity, told with restraint, power, and originality. It is certainly one of the
novels which mark a beginner out for attention.'
Vanity Fair. 'After a long course of flaccid, nerveless books that seem
to have no raisori d'ttrc, it is refreshing to find a well-written novel whose
characters seem "hewn from life," and act as men and women really act.'
The Scotsman. 'The story never drags, and can be read from end to
end. It seems to be a first work, and in its strength and vigour gives good
promise for the future. The workmanship is careful and conscientious, while
the characterisation is broad, human, and natural'
The Manchester Guardian. ' In depicting the friendship between
Clytie and Kent the author shows both power and subtlety, and may fairly
claim to have given us something new, for the portrayal of such a relationship
between a man and a woman standing on an equal intellectual level has not
been successfully attempted before.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
AN IMAGINATIVE MAN
BY ROBERT HICHENS
AUTHOR OF "THE GREEN CARNATION"
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Saturday Review. ' The powerfully dramatic scene in the dancing-
rooms at Cairo would alone make the book worth reading. The humour, too,
peculiar to himself is n )t lacking in Mr. Hichens's novel. It is undoubtedly
an artistic success. '
The Guardian.' There is no possible doubt as to the cleverness of the
book. The scenes are exceeding powerful.'
The Graphic. ' The story embodies a study of remarkable subtlety and
power, and the style is not only vivid and picturesque, but in those passages
of mixed emotion and reflection, which strike what is, perhaps, the charac-
teristic note of late nineteenth century prose literature, is touched with some-
thing of a poetic charm.'
The Standard. ' The setting of the book is vivid, and the effect of silence
well imagined, so that the strange little drama goes on, and the reader watches
it with an interest that does not suffer him to consider its absurdity.'
The Daily Chronicle. ' It treats an original idea with no little skill, and
it is written with a distinction which gives Mr. Hichens a conspicuous place
amongst the younger story-tellers who are really studious of English diction.
... It is marked out with an imaginative resource which has a welcome note
The Daily Graphic. ' A profoundly impressive study in psychology.
The descriptions of the shadier side of Egyptian life are fresh and vivid ;
indeed, Mr. Hichens has a rare power of stimulating the reader's imagination
until it fills in what no one can write, and thus helps to create a vivid picture.'
The Scotsman. ' It is no doubt a remarkable book. If it has almost
none of the humour of its predecessor (The Green Carnation), it is written
with the same brilliancy of style, and the same skill is shown in the drawing
of accessories. Mr. Hichens's three characters never fail to be interesting.
They are presented with very considerable power, while the background of
Egyptian life and scenery is drawn with a sure hand.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
A DRAMA IN DUTCH
BY 'Z Z'
In One Volume, price 6s.
The Spectator. ' Several of his types are painted in with a fine combina-
tion of breadth of effect and wealth of significant detail. . . . Certainly a book
which has not merely cleverness, but real vitality.'
The Speaker. ' A novel of such remarkable merit, and written with such
easy mastery of style. From first to last this striking and powerful story
maintains a high level of excellence, betokening no 'prentice hand. It is a
story teeming with humour and pathos, instinct with the irony of human fate,
and quick to apprehend the subtle twists and inconsistencies of human
character. Above all, it is deliciously original . . . and told with great spirit,
humour, and dramatic vigour. A vivid picture of a side of life upon which
little light has been cast by our novelists since Dickens laid down his pen.'
The Morning Post 'On the whole realistic; this presentment of
Holland in London has certain impressionist touches that are decidedly
effective. . . . All the tragedy of the book centres in the figure of Peter van
Eijk, a creation which says much for the author's imaginative powers.'
The Daily Telegraph. ' A singular little novel, which has so undeniable
a power of its own.' (Mr. W. L. COURTNEY.)
The Globe. 'The literary treatment is fresh and impressive. . . . The
author shows skill in all its characterisations, his mastery of Dutch idiosyncrasy
being obviously complete.'
The Daily Chronicle. ' One does not care to put the book down till the
last page is turned.'
The Westminster Gazette. ' Vivid in portraiture, vivacious in manner.
. . . The combination of close observation and grim sardonic humour gives
the book a decided charm. . . . The pathetic figure of Peter is drawn with a
tenderness which indefinitely enlarges our impression of the author's dramatic
The Weekly Sun. 'Has the great merit of introducing us to a new
world. . . . What a delightful creation Mrs. de Griendt is. Indeed, I should
personally have been glad if we had had more of her. Whenever she appears
on the stage she fills it with her presence, and you can see her, hear her, watch
her with fascination and incessant interest. ... I think the reader will agree
with me that I have not exaggerated the literary merit of this exquisitely-
described scene.' (T. P. O'CONNOR, M.P.)
The Review of Reviews. 'You will enjoy reading it.'
The Glasgow Herald. 'A striking and amusing novel. . . . The author
has a pleasant gift of humour, and has shown distinct originality.'
The Aberdeen Daily Free Press. 'In the publication of this and
kindred works, Mr. Heinemann is doing much to maintain the freshness and
vigour of our English fiction. . . . He has seldom provided a pleasanter and
yet more bracing work than the Drama now before us. ... As a mere story
it will carry delight to even the most unthinking.'
LONDON: WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
MISS GRACE OF ALL SOULS'
BY W. E. TIREBUCK
In One Volume^ price 6s.
The Times. ' Since Mrs. Gaskell wrote her Mary Barton we have seen
no more interesting novel on the condition of the working classes. Mr.
Tirebuck is thoroughly master of his subject. ... A vivid and impressive
narrative of the great coal strike of a couple of years ago.'
The Literary World. ' Every reader anxious to hear of a work that is full
of brains and vigour may unhesitatingly enter Miss Grace of All Souls' upon
his list of books worthy to be perused. . . . Mr. Tirebuck, not content with
providing " Grace" for our admiration, has made another claim upon our love
oy presenting us to Nance Ockleshaw. For her sake alone Miss Grace of All
Souls' should be read, and we hope that the novel will make its way into many
a home, there to be considered with all the care that is due to it.'
The World. ' The most remarkable contribution made by fiction to the
history of the working classes since Mary Barton, and it has a wider range
and import of deeper gravity. It appeals directly to the thoughtful among
readers, those who care to learn, on the object-lesson plan, the facts and
aspects of life among the multitudes, with whom they are brought into actual
contact. The girl who is its central figure is an original and very attractive
The Daily Chronicle. 'An uncommonly well- told story, interesting from
first to last. Mr. Tirebuck has drawn a truly delightful character in the
miner's wife ; indeed, the whole family might well have been sketched straight
from the life. It is difficult to make a work of fiction at once instructive and
entertaining, but Mr. Tirebuck has done it in Miss Grace of All Souls'. 1
The Pall Mall Gazette. 'An admirable piece of work. Here is realism
in its proper proportions : the rude, harsh, Methody life of the northern miner
engraved in all its essentials. Mr. Tirebuck manages to illustrate the con-
ditions of miners' lives for us with complete fidelity. Not a touch of the
humour, the pathos, the tragedy, the grime, the sin, and the ideals is lacking.
. . . Mr. Tirebuck has done his work to perfection. The story is not a moral
tract, but a work of art of great significance.'
The British Weekly. ' Mr. Tirebuck is a practised and powerful novelist,
and in this story he has taken us right inside the heart of the poor. His
description of the collier's wife is wonderful work.'
The Manchester Guardian. ' As a picture of working men and women,
instinct as it is with knowledge, sympathy, passion, and conviction, we have
seldom, if ever, read anything so good.'
The Manchester Courier. 'The character of Miss Grace reminds the
reader of the heroine of Charles Kingsley's Westward Ho.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.
OUT OF DUE SEASON
BY ADELINE SERGEANT
In One Volume, price 6s.
The Athenaeum. 'Told with a force and directness that hold the reader's
attention throughout. ... A stirring and interesting novel.'
The Academy. ' As a study of character, the work is admirable.'
The Saturday Review. 'A finely conceived study. The book is true
without being sordid realistic in the better meaning of the word ; and we
have read it with the greatest interest and some stirrings of emotion. 1
The National Observer. 'The strong and true spirit of the husband
gives an ennobling study of humanity worth many plots. Miss Sergeant has
risen to her earlier level in this book, a fine study of character, and it is only
just to say that it is also strong in detail.'
The World. 'A work to which the much-used adjective "beautiful"
may be applied with full intention and strict justice.'
The Daily Chronicle. ' Miss Sergeant has given her best matter, treated
in her best manner.'
The Daily News. ' A moving story. In the delineation of the softening
of the man's spirit, and of the mental struggles by which he reaches to for-
giveness of his wife, Miss Sergeant shows a fine imagination. This is the best
book of Miss Sergeant's that has come under our notice for some time.'
The Globe. ' Miss Sergeant follows her hero with a rare grasp of descrip-
tive detail. The concluding chapters of the book reach a high level of pathos,
dignity, and convincing humanity.'
Black and White. ' Gideon Blake is a fine creation ; and the record of
his devotion to the unworthy Emmy, and his attempted expiation of her sins,
is forcibly wrought. The closing tragedy, simply treated, is impressive.'
The Literary World. ' The story is well put together, and has points of
more than passing interest and importance.'
The Scotsman. ' It is in the development of the great theme of a man's
undying constancy to his erring partner, and his eventual forgiveness of her
offence, that the author rises to a height of true dramatic power seldom attained
in the modern novel. On its merits the story is worthy of a high place in
Birmingham Daily Post 'The character of Gideon Blake, the intense
and strong-minded husband of the fragile Emmy, is a fine creation, based on
the harder types of moral grandeur.'
Bradford Observer. ' The tale is sincerely and touchingly written. Its
characters are veritable flesh and blood.'
LONDON : WILLIAM HEINEMANN, 21 BEDFORD STREET, W.C.